Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 1:35 - Released 11/21/01

Black Knight, the medieval fish-out-of-water comedy starring Martin Lawrence, is proof of my personal theory that for every one quality film available to the viewing public, there are at least 10 worthless filler movies made solely to attract the undistinguished tastes (and dollars) of indiscriminate moviegoers. Written by Darryl Quarles, Peter Gaulke, and Gerry Swallow, and directed by TV director Gil Junger, whose only other film to date has been 1999's 10 Things I Hate About You, this movie brings new meaning to the word "waste," blowing a million dollars' worth of period sets and costumes (which are easily its most impressive elements), using up tons of film and equipment and the expertise of industry technicians who could be put to better use, and wasting an hour and a half of my time, which I could be using to do something more enjoyable, like trimming my toenails. Well, it takes that long to really manicure them properly.

Blending a hollow, sophomoric plot with the energetic yet inconsequential performance of its star, Black Knight casts Lawrence as Jamal Walker, a disgruntled employee at a medieval-themed amusement park in South Central L.A., who falls into the moat and emerges in 14th-century England. After going through the obligatory period of thinking everyone's just putting him on, he learns from a comely young chambermaid named Victoria (Marsha Thomason) that he is in the court of King Leo (Kevin Conway), a corrupt ruler who usurped the crown from its rightful owner, the queen. Along with his arrogant and merciless knight Percival (Vincent Regan), Leo is in the process of crushing a popular rebellion of which Victoria is a part. So Jamal, mistaken for a French dignitary and given the royal treatment, is pressed into service by Victoria to help unseat the cruel monarch.

This movie is about as forgettable as they come. Featuring get-out-of-the-way performances by most of its supporting cast, it allows Lawrence to do more of his "black man surrounded by hostile crackers" schtick, most of which fails to register a chuckle. I don't know which is more tiring—watching Lawrence jump around, groan out Ebonic slogans, and mug for the camera, or watching the rest of the cast members (especially Tom Wilkinson, who plays a friendly but down-on-his-luck knight) try to maintain their dignity. An apt assessment of the film is spoken by one of its characters, who mistakes Jamal for a court jester: "You have to admire his commitment—it's no longer funny, but he refuses to give up on the joke."

Copyright 2001 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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