Hello, friends in time, and welcome to a regular feature on Cinema 52 where I put my weekly viewing of Back to the Future on hold and watch another movie featuring time travel for comparison. It may not keep me sane, but it will probably always involve one guy shouting, “This doesn’t make any sense!” And that’s good enough for me.

BLACK KNIGHT (2001)

Martin Lawrence is Jamal Walker, an employee at a theme park called Medieval World that isn’t doing so hot. A rival business called Castle World is opening up two miles away, but before Jamal can jump ship and hand in an application, oops, he falls into a magic moat and ends up in England circa 1328. 84 minutes later, there are credits.

THE STORY:
This is where some reviewers think it’s fun to say something like “What story? Boing!” but what they really mean is that the story is poorly constructed or uninteresting. This movie actually has no story. Jamal falls back in time less than seven minutes into the movie. Seven minutes! And half of them are devoted to him brushing his teeth and trimming his nose hairs during the opening title sequence. When he lands in England, all we’ve learned about his character up to this point is that he knows when to quit a failing company and his nostrils are freshly shorn.

Oh, and if the title is any indication, he is black.

When he arrives in England, nothing happens. He takes forever to realize that he has traveled through time. Once he figures it out, he has zero concern for returning. He pretty much walks around making faces at things, calls them “big-ass” and “shit,” and refers to celebrities that haven’t been born yet. Y’all know Puffy? No? Jamal meets Victoria (Marsha Thomason) and asks if he can take pictures of her in a thong. Why, we know not of such things! Jamal explains: “Why don’t you just bring a old pair of drawers and cut the ass out?”

“Geo Metro. Taco Bell. The Gap. Why is none of this making sense to you, you dumb woman???”

This movie could not possibly require spoiler alerts, because there’s no plot and every scene is predictable. I was assuming I’d report that the whole thing is baffling, but baffling would be an improvement. It’s so cookie cutter that any typical bad movie weirdness would offset the mind-numbing boredom and painfully foreseeable jokes. Jamal is invited to dance at the banquet. Jamal has to give a speech. Jamal is asked to teach the knights some combat moves. Each of these opportunities involve Martin Lawrence saying, “Oh shit,” and mugging for five whole minutes before OH MY GOD, SOMETHING MODERN, HA. Get it? Get it. Becca and I wouldn’t even let characters finish their set-ups before we yelled the obvious payoffs at the screen. “He’s going to use that spray paint later!” “He’s not having sex with the lady he thinks he is!” “It’s going to be all a dream, but then something will prove it wasn’t!”

When you see the cover of Black Knight, you have seen Black Knight.

THE ACTING:
I’m still puzzled by the opening scene. Martin Lawrence just makes faces in a mirror, because dumb people call that comedy. At one point, he uses a plastic toothbrush, then an electric toothbrush. Either the movie is attempting to show us that his character has OCD, or the director clearly just told Martin to do some improv in a bathroom set and he’d cut it together later. If you really want to know, you can listen to the commentary.

Oh, you thought I was kidding?

Obviously, to offset Martin Lawrence Martin Lawrencing his way through England, all the other actors have to keep straight faces and be all stiff and proper. Most of them come across like overzealous stage actors hoping for their big Hollywood break, to be honest, but Tom Wilkinson manages to portray an alcoholic former knight with surprisingly charming results for such an awful script. (“He’s going to redeem himself by the end!”) He’s enjoyable enough that I only mostly cringed when from out of his mouth escaped an unfortunate “Boo yeah!”

We all start somewhere.

THE SPECIAL EFFECTS:
The moat just kinda glows a little bit. We only see it twice. It gets a pass.

Blurble.

There’s one really shitty green screen at the end for a joke that you’ll see coming even if the producers didn’t. Also, random slow motion shots for no discernible reason.

OTHER STUFF:

  • Not to laserblast Leonard Maltin again or anything, but he gives Black Knight two-and-a-half stars. According to him, Primer is just half a star better than this movie, though his review of Shane Carruth’s directorial debut does not include the word “homeboy.”
  • During a banquet scene in the castle, there is a prominent fart sound. Becca and I could not determine which character produced this fart based on their reactions, but we both agreed that it was definitely not scripted and was added to the mix merely because the scene was dragging and the idea of butt wind is always humorous. Always.
  • It takes Jamal less than two minutes to describe the song “Dance to the Music” to the medieval band before they cover it flawlessly. This song will not be recorded for another 640 years. Factoring in this time difference and the fact that it takes Marty McFly approximately four seconds to explain a song three years away from being recorded in Back to the Future, this math doesn’t check out. It should take 14 minutes. Explain yourselves, filmmakers!
  • The only time I laughed at the movie (not counting random outbursts in regards to its quality) was during a scene in which Jamal dramatically claims to be a sorcerer because he can produce fire from his hands, thanks to his lighter. Since this movie hits every single one of its clichés beat for goddamn beat, it caught me completely off-guard when nobody is impressed and one random guy in the crowd deadpans: “We have fire.” Finally, a subversion! You can do it, movie! You can be funny if you want to!

I hope this guy’s resumé has “Best Line in Black Knight” on it somewhere.

THE “NONE OF THIS MAKES ANY SENSE!” MOMENT:
Just like in Timecop, the dumber the movie, the less any character can talk about time travel, or the audience might start thinking or something. Friends, I may be wrong, but I counted exactly one line in which Jamal shows any concern for getting home or mentions time travel in general:

“Finally, the lake. Better not come out on the other end fightin’ dinosaurs.”

FINAL THOUGHTS:
This movie contains a shot that perfectly sums up the experience of watching it.

If you laugh every time a white person says, “That is wack,” you may enjoy a steaming faceful of Black Knight.

NEXT WEEK:
Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)

Want more time travel? Head on over to the Time Out archive.