November 26, 2001 5:30am EST
Jamal (Martin Lawrence) is a worker at the Medieval World theme park who falls into a moat and emerges in 14th-century England a world inhabited by knights in shining armor. Once he pieces together what has probably happened Jamal tries to find a way to go back to the future. Along the way he finds himself inadvertently caught up in a rebellion led by a sort of medieval feminist Victoria (Marsha Thomason) against an illegitimate monarchy. With the help of Sir Nolte (Tim Wilkinson) a once legendary knight who has fallen on hard times Jamal and Victoria plan their attack on Percival (Vincent Regan) an evil knight aware of their plans to quash the monarchy and the king's iron rule. Jamal leads Victoria Nolte and their army of peasants into battle by teaching them football and wrestling techniques but when Jamal finally finds a way back to the 21st century he must face the feelings he has developed for Victoria.
Veteran actor/comedian Martin Lawrence (What's the Worst That Could Happen? Big Momma's House) was definitely a great replacement for Chris Tucker who was originally set to star in the picture. His character's off-the-wall reactions to things like toilet facilities (stone benches encrusted with filth) are hilarious but Lawrence also manages some more touching scenes with enough ease--despite his loudmouth antics. Wilkinson (In the Bedroom Shakespeare in Love) also delivers a poignant performance as a once brilliant knight now badly in need of Alcoholics Anonymous. Regan (The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc) as the evil Percival gives dozens of steely glares. Less impressive was Thomason (Long Time Dead) whose character was too one-dimensional and practically emotionless.
Derived from Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court in which a 19th-century New England factory worker is struck in the head and awakens in 6th-century Camelot the story for Black Knight comes with practically guaranteed built-in laughs. The film directed by Gil Junger (10 Things I Hate about You) generates a few chuckles especially when dealing with issues of hygiene. Lawrence also delivers some great lines though some are popular rap lyrics like "Punks jump up to get beat down." The problem with the jokes is that they are hardly original and blatantly predictable. Who would not have guessed that Jamal would freak at Middle Ages plumbing and show his medieval counterparts some modern hip-hop dance moves? The 14th-century sets however are surprisingly realistic looking considering this is a comedy rather than a period film.