Movie Review: 'Arthur The King'

Mark Wahlberg stars as Michael Light, the captain of a team of “adventure racers,” teams that participate in multi-day races of over 500 miles across various treacherous terrains.

Movie Review: 'Arthur The King'

I’m not going to sugarcoat it: this was not a good week for new releases. The battle for the top spot at the domestic box office was a fierce one, with “Kung Fu Panda 4” in its second weekend narrowly edging out “Dune: Part Two” in its third. But after those two holdovers, the box office fell off a cliff, with newcomer “Arthur the King” taking a weak third place with barely a quarter of either’s take. Granted, the relatively small-scale production is not one that has ambitions of conquering the box office. It’s okay with being a nice little crowd-pleaser, which would be fine if it were actually more pleasing.

Mark Wahlberg stars as Michael Light, the captain of a team of “adventure racers,” four-person teams that participate in multi-day races of over 500 miles across various treacherous terrains. He blew a big race three years ago, and he’s been stuck in a rut ever since. He stakes his family’s savings on one more shot at glory. His teammates are veteran navigator Chik (Ali Suliman), pretty-boy social media influencer Leo (Simu Liu), and rock-climbing prodigy Olivia (Nathalie Emmanuel). I’m not sure if it’s intentional or not, but Olivia gives one of the most awkward line deliveries I’ve ever heard. It’s very serious subject matter, and I felt bad laughing at it, but the timing is just crazy. A similar mistake was made by bad-movie classic “The Room,” but honestly, it’s even more egregious here.

The race is grueling and frustrating and includes a truly harrowing zipline sequence. As predictable as it was that the characters were going to get out of it, I couldn’t help but put myself in their place and wonder if I might die of fright even before the risky rescue. The movie gets this scene right, even if it’s more heart-pounding than heart-warming.

About halfway through the race, Michael notices that a stray dog has been following the team. He admires its perseverance, and since they can’t really stop it from following them at its own discretion, they adopt him as an unofficial fifth member. The dog treats Michael’s much-maligned meatballs like a meal fit for a king, so Michael calls him Arthur. The dog is good at sniffing out danger, and the whole team owes him a life debt after about two minutes. But he’s also very sickly, and probably has only days – maybe hours – to live.

The rest of the movie is the dog-centric adventure we’ve been promised. Arthur brings a unique set of strengths and weaknesses to the team. They’re soon in first place, but hinderances from both man and beast mean that they may not hang onto it for long. Even after the race is over, there’s still a lengthy portion of the film devoted to the dog’s health. I wasn’t sure which way the movie was going to go until it put so much effort into misleading me that I knew it had to go the other way.

“Arthur the King” is your typical inspirational dog movie mixed with your typical inspirational sports movie, although the sport in question happens to be several sports at once. It’s hard to get truly mad at a movie like this, but I can’t say it delivered a lot of bang for my buck, and that clunky bit of dialogue, just… woof. I definitely recommend the two movies at the top of the box office over this one.

Grade: C-

“Arthur the King” is rated PG-13 for some strong language. Its running time is 90 minutes.

Robert R. Garver is a graduate of the Cinema Studies program at New York University. His weekly movie reviews have been published since 2006.

Last Update: Mar 18, 2024 7:35 am CDT

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