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Fox Home Entertainment presents
Black Knight (2001)

"Wow...Castle World!!"
- Jamal (Martin Lawrence)

Review By: Dan Lopez   
Published: April 17, 2002

Stars: Martin Lawrence, Marsha Thompson, Tom Wilkinson
Other Stars: Daryl Mitchell, Kevin Conway
Director: Gil Junger

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for (language, sexual and crude humor, battle violence)
Run Time: 01h:35m:00s
Release Date: April 16, 2002
Genre: comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
C DAB+ C+

DVD Review

Black Knight is best described as another film version of Mark Twain's classic Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. You've seen it all before: a guy from the future winds up out of his element and time, and his modern-day knowledge is somehow useful tot he people of the past. Now, I'm no Martin Lawrence fan. In fact, other than this film, I don't think I've sat through any of his features. I'll admit it, I don't like him and I think his brand of humor is extremely tiresome and stale. That said, though, I did give Black Knight an honest chance. I allowed myself to be openly entertained by the film without any preconceptions; unfortunately, rather early on I could tell it would not memorable. While Black Knight isn't as bad as it seems, but that's still nowhere near a ringing endorsement.

The story centers on Jamal Walker, a complete goof-off wiseguy who tends to think only of his own success. He works at a rundown amusement park called Medieval World, which has just come in to competition with another, similar park called Castle World. Jamal figures he might as well apply to work at Castle World because it will probably cause Medieval World to shut down. Before he trots off to success, he winds up by cleaning out the moat around the park and discovers a gold necklace that magically transports him to 14th Century England. He arrives in the middle of a bustling community, but is too stupid to figure out where he is. Instead, he thinks he's stumbled into Castle World. The locals mistake him for a royal messenger who is supposed to be bringing important news from Normandy, but after a short while, he realizes what's going on and uncovers a plot to overthrow the King.

Now, to be fair, I totally dismissed all the plot holes and general problems with the premise since it's supposed to be a lighthearted comedy. In the end, though, I guess I just missed the 'comedy' part. Black Knight is essentially a one-note idea: Jamal talks his street-lingo and acts completely kooky, and then the locals get confused and/or accept his ways outright. Eventually a number of subplots work their way in, including an obligatory villain for Jamal to butt heads with. Despite a few well-crafted moments (most of which are largely due to the dead-panning and straight-man delivery of acclaimed actor Tom Wilkinson, who portrays a drunken knight), the humor is amazingly flat. Even Martin Lawrence fans must, at this point, be tiring of his routine. In fact, virtually anyone could have replaced Lawrence, and I wonder exactly how long this script was floating around until it was picked up. A few years back, this would have been prime Adam Sandler territory, or even further back, Pauly Shore.

The story tries to clean itself up with an underlying message about how Jamal is transforming into a better person during his ordeal, but it's heavy-handed and terribly obvious, plus it's hard to take this kind of messagewhen it's followed up with a bathroom joke, off-color sexual or stereotypical racial remark. I don't expect every comedy that comes out to be sophisticated (although it would be nice), but an occasional glint of creativity beyond people falling down and Martin Lawrence saying "Daaaaamn" every 5 minutes would probably go a long way with audiences. Perhaps the saddest thing about Black Knight is that, if one were so inclined, you could literally watch the film with pen and paper in hand and jot down an almost endless list of stolen gags and ideas, or at least jokes so old they would make most people shudder. Almost every fish-out-of-water/time travel film has had certain, similar lines of humor, and here they're taken to extremes. In my opinion, it's a crime so much money and so many good actors are wasted making these lame vehicles. Even more insulting is the fact that nowhere is Mark Twain given even a shred of credit. As it is, I find it hard to believe it took one person to come up with this, let alone the three credited screenwriters.

Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: D

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: It may not be a great movie, but the image is another impressive transfer from Fox. Although I detected a hint of over-sharpening here and there that tended to muddle some fine detail, overall the image is near perfect. There are absolutely no compression issues, and the source used is totally free of obvious defects. Colors are amazingly rich and warm and every scene has a tangible texture to it. Black Knight may not be high art, but cinematographer Ueli Steiger certainly tries to make it look so.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Spanish, Frenchyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The primary Dolby 5.1 audio track is fairly expansive and very theatrical. There's regular use of split surround effects and all sorts of directionality, as well as a healthy dose of subwoofer activity in the appropriate scenes. For all its business though, it rarely works effectively; rather, it seems brash and energetic just to draw attention to itself. It's not bad, and it feels very much like a movie should, it just doesn't impress. Additional 2.0 Surround audio tracks in Spanish and French are supplied, and seem far more muted than the 5.1, lacking in depth. However, watching Martin Lawrence dubbed into French is more entertaining than the movie itself.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Unfaithful, Minority Report
3 Deleted Scenes
4 Featurette(s)
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by (1) Director Gil Junger, (2)Martin Lawrence [two scenes only]
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. OuttakesStoryboard Comparisions
  2. Outtakes
Extras Review: Black Knight is dotted with features, but few of them are worth much. A full-length commentary by director Gil Junger is presented, and is about what you'd expect. He reveals how much of the film was ad-libbed (which turns out to be most of it) and discusses how he worked with someone like Lawrence who'd always come up with his own material. He handles it with humor and lightheartedness, but like the movie, it doesn't always work. The packaging is a bit misleading when it says that Martin Lawrence participates in a commentary as it actually only covers two scenes. As the scenes plays, a small window in the lower right-hand corner of the screen has Lawrence giving his thoughts about that piece, but that's all he provides.

An outtakes reel (about 1 minute long) provides some goofed lines and messed-up scenes. There are a total of four featurettes which, though divided in different ways, are all basically making-of pieces focusing on different aspects of production. None of them are longer than about 9 minutes, and they're all fairly promotional. The fourth clip features choreographer Paula Abdul working on a dance sequence for the film. Two scenes are presented with storyboard comparison in split-screenformat. Additionally, there are three deleted scenes, none of which add much to the movie, and there is a commentary for them if you're curious as to why they were cut. Two of the original trailers are presented, as well as one for the upcoming (at the time of this writing) Unfaithful and Steven Spielberg's Minority Report.

Extras Grade: C+

 

Final Comments

I once heard a film critic refer to Martin Lawrence as a "protean talent." To me, that would indicate that Lawrence is growing and evolving into something, but that simply isn't the case. Instead, he's still hanging out in the same old stagnant pond from which he originally sprung. He wastes his chance to make something out of his very first fully starring role by doing a "Def Comedy Jam" performance while surrounded by elaborate sets and actors of far greater caliber.

 


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