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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 6/28/02

Black Knight
2001 (2002) - 20th Century Fox

review by Greg Suarez of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Black Knight Film Rating: D+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/A/A-

Specs and Features

95 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 52:13, at the start of chapter 17), Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary track with director Gil Junger, 2 Martin on Moviemaking interviews, outtakes, A Timeless Friendship featurette, Pratfalls and Parapets featurette, Construction featurette, Choreography featurette, 2 storyboard-to-final scene presentations, 3 deleted scenes (with optional director's commentary), 2 theatrical trailers for Black Knight, theatrical trailers (for Minority Report and Unfaithful), animated film themed menu screens with sound effects and music, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), Spanish and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English, Closed Captioned

You don't get more fish-out-of-water than this. In Black Knight, comedian Martin Lawrence plays Jamal, a contemporary, smart-ass amusement park worker who is magically whisked away to medieval England. At first Jamal thinks he's ended up at the rival, medieval-themed amusement park down the road. But the reality of the situation eventually sets in, and the bumbling "hero" soon gets caught up in a plot to overthrow the wicked King and restore rule to the kindly Queen, whom the citizens prefer. Along the way, Jamal tries to woo the beautiful, rebellious Victoria (Marsha Thomason) and help fallen knight Knolte (Tom Wilkinson) reclaim his honor and dignity, while Knolte helps Jamal bring forth his bravery. Pretty typical stuff.

Black Knight is so vanilla, so hopelessly generic and derivative, that the viewer's affinity for this film will lie solely in their ability to appreciate Martin Lawrence. It serves as nothing more than a vehicle for the star. Judging by the film rating given above, it's safe to assume that Lawrence's twitchy, whiny, cutesy-idiot posturing grates on this critic's nerves with a disturbing sense of ferocity. In fairness, if you do, in fact, dig Lawrence's comedic stylings, by all means tack on another letter grade. But Martin Lawrence or no Martin Lawrence, this is still a very mediocre film. The plot is predictable, the heroes and villains are prototypical for this type of film, and many of the jokes are humdrum (with the exception of Jamal's formal introduction to the King, which - I confess - had me laughing like a hyena sucking nitrous oxide).

The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen video on this DVD is impressive. Colors are vivid and the picture has a clean, smooth, film-like appeal. The overall image has a soft characteristic, but fine picture detail still shows through respectably. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio truly shines. The entire soundstage is used to convey a sense of openness and dimensionality. The action-oriented scenes have plenty of surround usage and directional effects, and the score lights up the audio during more focused moments. The audio on this DVD will impress more than the typical action-comedy example.

Those looking to dig a little deeper into the making of Black Knight should be impressed with the extra features found here. The supplements kick off with an entertaining audio commentary track with the film's director, Gil Junger. Junger offers some nice insight into the history of the film, and provides good commentary on the creation of specific segments. I often found some of his comments funnier and more entertaining than what was happening in the film itself. Ironic, no? Next up are two segments called Martin on Moviemaking, in which a small picture-in-picture box featuring a Martin Lawrence interview is overlayed against the specific scene about which he's speaking. The scenes featured are Jamal's meeting of Knolte, and the scene in which Jamal has trouble riding a horse. A short compilation of outtakes also finds its way on this disc. Look for a very funny cameo by the director.

Also on board are a series of short featurettes. They run between 2 and 10 minutes each, are fairly informative, and are thankfully short on flowery ass-kissing. A Timeless Friendship covers the unlikely on-screen pairing of Martin Lawrence and classically trained British actor Tom Wilkinson. Pratfalls and Parapets takes a look at the many stunt sequences in the film, while Construction deals with turning parts of North Carolina into medieval England. The Choreography featurette stars everyone's favorite late-'80s radio plague, Paula Abdul, who served as choreographer for the party sequence. Two storyboard-to-final scene presentations, three painfully bad deleted scenes (with optional director's commentary), two Black Knight theatrical trailers and additional theatrical trailers for Minority Report and Unfaithful wrap up the nice helping of DVD supplements.

If you like Martin Lawrence, then you'll probably get a kick out of Black Knight. Just don't expect to see anything you haven't already seen before in dozens of other films. If you're disinclined to Lawrence, I don't think I have to tell you to steer very clear. The DVD features nice video and even nicer audio, along with a well put together group of extras. But, at most, this is rental for the curious.

Greg Suarez
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