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Black Knight

Starring Martin Lawrence; Marsha Thomason, Tom Wilkinson
Screenplay by Darryl J. Quarles and Peter Gaulke & Gerry Swallow
Directed by Gil Junger

IN SHORT: Cranky be too damned old for this, or, strictly for kidlets. [Rated PG-13 for language, sexual/crude humor and battle violence. 92 minutes]

Knowest thou that copyright laws, being as they may, provide no protection if thou hath been mouldering in the grave for too many years to be spinning in it; That neither a Yankee nor a resident of Connecticut be Jamal Walker (Martin Lawrence). But yea! though a mere maintenance worker at Medieval World, he hath dreams of greater commercial opportunities . . . at the brand spankin' new Castle World, 2 miles up the road somewhere near Los Angeles. But hold! Forsooth, there be a shiny medallion at the bottom of the moat! Worthy of good coin per'aps? So let Jamal fall into the moat and, shazam!, awake in a place long ago and far away.

There he saves the drunkard Knight, Sir Nolte (Tom Wilkinson), who has sworn never again to fight the good fight. As for Jamal, he figure that he's woken up at Castle World and, logically, goes looking for a job. Well, that's actually second on the list once he sets eyes on the lovely Victoria (Marsha Thomason), the sole Nubian princess at Court. Being that Black Knight is supposed to be a comedy, we relaxed and waited for the inevitable clash of South Central Speak and medieval English. Nope. It rarely happens. With the exception of one great comic/musical setpiece, Black Knight is one long vamp by Lawrence, whose main ability seems to be an unashamed desire to behave like an ass at almost every chance he gets.

What logical story there is hangs by a thread. The King has usurped the crown and the medallion signals Jamal's intention to kill His Majesty -- aided by the lovely Victoria, of course. In the guise of a messenger from Normandie (the street in South Central where Jamal lives) he is accepted into court as a messenger from France and granted access to the bed of any fair lady in the kingdom, excepting the Princess who is betrothed to Jamal's alleged French Lord. Doesn't take more than a single digit IQ to figure out what's going to happen next. As the film moves from gag to gag, from obsessions with bowel movements and sex that are all fine and dandy for a teen comedy, we sat befuddled in our seats because very little of it was funny.

With a Star Wars joke that is run into the ground and too many others that are set up and never delivered, all that is left to talk about is one brilliant musical routine (well, Lawrence didn't get to be a star by sitting on his butt watching movies) involving an old Sly and the Family Stone song, now playing on some classic rock station somewhere. The bottom line truth of this farce is that there is a reason why absolutely nothing about it makes any kind of sense. That reason is revealed in the Third Act, when Jamal finally makes the trip back to 2001, so we can't spill it.

Tom Wilkinson's role gives the project some sense of being grounded in some kind of reality, and even that is flushed down the crapper as you hit the climax of the film.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Nine Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Black Knight, he would have paid . . .


Fans of Martin's teevee show may go to the theater. Other teens may rent. But too many demographic targets were walking out of our screening saying they wouldn't have paid for this -- which they didn't. Not a good sign.

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