A KID IN KING ARTHUR’S COURT (1995)
Back in the ’70s, Disney attempted to modernize Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court with less than stellar results. So why they returned to that same well only 15 years later is beyond me (and they came back again three years later!). Anyhow, good idea or not, 1995 brought us Michael Gottlieb’s A Kid in King Arthur’s Court, which, at the end of the day, is about what you should expect from a movie with “Joust Do It” for a tagline.
A rather confused-seeming disembodied Merlin head (Ron Moody, who played a less dead and more evil version of the same character in Unidentified Flying Oddball) decides to summon a mighty warrior from somewhere in time to help save Camelot from ill-defined problems.
I think he’d better think it out again…
His spell summons Calvin Fuller (Thomas Ian Nicholas), a teenager from California, by sucking him into an earthquake during a baseball game.
Pictured: The San Andreas Fault/time travel/the seventh inning stretch.
Suddenly Calvin finds himself in the Middle Ages! The boring, dull-as-dirt Middle Ages! Wait. Isn’t the whole point about making a movie about traveling to the past to show interesting things happening there? I guess someone forgot. Anyhow, he lands on the Black Knight as he exits his stupid time warp, thereby defeating them, Dorothy style. Immediately the King (Joss Ackland) loves Calvin, all conflict is avoided, and the movie becomes terribly dull.
Well, it isn’t entirely fair to say that there is no conflict. Lord Belasco (Art Malik) has vaguely evil plans, and decides to fight Calvin for reasons that elude me. Calvin uses some horns as speakers and pulls a Marty McFly as Darth Vader on him.
Not even remotely how that works.
At this point it gets really easy to just zone out, as the movie becomes almost nothing but Calvin trying to impress Princess Katey (Paloma Baeza), one of Arthur’s daughters, using modern technology like roller blades.
I do not believe that floor is smooth enough to skate on.
And mountain bikes.
I do not believe that kid knew how to build a bike from scratch.
And Big Macs?
I do believe that is the face someone might make after eating a Big Mac for the first time.
Like much high school flirting, nothing comes of any of this. Meanwhile, Kate Winslet, one of the other princesses, wants to marry Daniel Craig, but the king wants her to marry Belasco, so she takes on the alter ego of the Black Knight and runs around the kingdom acting like Robin Hood. I know that sounds fun, but I fit it all into one sentence. It’s not as cool spread out over 90 minutes.
“Sneak up on me in the shower like one of your French girls.”
In the end, nothing has really happened, but everyone is happy, so Merlin sends Calvin back to his baseball game. But wait! Who’s that in the stands, but the princess he was flirting with! Also, the king! They’ve escaped their own time and are watching him play sports! Creepy!
Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court wryly deals with the problems that keep society miserable, and deftly skewers modern ideas about progress. As such, you’d kind of expect any modern adaptation to in some way address these core themes. Hell, even Unidentified Flying Oddball incorporated our overt reliance on technology into its plot. So, what does A Kid in King Arthur’s Court have to say about the ’90s?
Tell us your secrets, ’90s kid!
First we need to look at the societal problems the movie shows us. Huh, despite frequent lines about how Lord Belasco is ruining the kingdom, everybody seems pretty happy. Kate Winslet isn’t happy about the marriage options for princesses, but that’s more of a personal problem than a broad issue with society (there are only two princesses after all). The only unhappiness the movie shows us stems from the feudal version of First World problems. Hell, even when Arthur and Calvin go undercover out into the country (the only bit of the movie that seems to be even remotely based on Twain’s work), they don’t run into a single unhappy peasant. It’s all about the king.
A society where a king can occasionally get hit by a bucket of piss? Outrageous!
So, what solution does our modern visitor provide for this backwards realm? Distractions! CD players! Bubble gum! Roller blades! Every other useless thing imaginable! When asked what the purpose of one of these things is, Calvin just up and admits, “There is no purpose.”
I know, King, I’m shocked too.
So, I guess we’re supposed to take away that when society is plagued by inconsequential problems, the answer is to ignore them and distract yourself with toys. Thanks, the ’90s!
WHY DON’T PEOPLE LIKE IT?:
Sometimes a premise is better than the movie it gets. Just imagine what fun shenanigans a modern teenager could get into in medieval England! I bet you’re already imagining something more interesting than this movie. I can almost guarantee that you aren’t picturing some little shit with a saddle super-glued to his ass.
I can’t speak for you, but this is not what I wanted to see today.
Left to fight against people’s imagination of its potential, I really can’t see this dull-as-dishwater film doing very well.
- For a more comprehensive view of A Kid in King Arthur’s Court as a time travel film, check out Cinemanaut Bill’s review from that time when he watched every time travel movie ever.
MOST REGRETTABLE MOMENT:
Aside from being unbearably dull, there really isn’t much that’s objectionable in this movie. As such, I’m just going to point out that Princess Katey says the line, “My father knows nothing of my nocturnal transgressions” while trying to get a peek at Calvin’s dick. There’s nothing regrettable about this, really, I just wanted to point it out.
Side note, “My Nocturnal Transgressions” would make a pretty sweet band name.
That Darn Cat (1997)