On my list of unlikely costars, Martin Lawrence and Tom Wilkinson are up there. If you’re going to put them in a movie, a time travel adventure about an amusement park worker from L.A. who finds himself in 14th century England is just about right, though a buddy cop movie would probably fit the bill too. The pairing isn’t awe-inspiring, but it is serviceable if your expectations are low enough.
Lawrence plays Jamal Walker, an employee at Medieval World, which is kind of like a dilapidated Medieval Times with rusty carnival rides. The opening of Castle World across the street threatens to put the park out of business, a prospect Jamal doesn’t find all that troubling. Showing little loyalty to the community-minded owner, he plans on jumping ship so that he can earn more money. His greed comes with some consequences though. He spies a golden medallion as he’s cleaning the moat and gets swallowed up by the murky water.
Jamal reemerges in 1328 England and makes his way to King Leo’s (Kevin Conway) castle. While he mistakes it for the new theme park, the court mistakes him for a French moor and emissary. Once he realizes that he’s not in L.A. anymore, he takes a few liberties, adopting the name “Skywalker” and exploiting the misunderstanding to earn the king’s trust. All is not well, however, and not only does Jamal make enemies of the king’s personal guard, Percival (Vincent Regan), he also learns that an exiled queen is the rightful monarch. Can he use his 21st century wiles to restore her to the throne?
Of course he can, but not without help from drunkard Sir Knolte (Wilkinson) and the fair maiden Victoria (a delightful Marsha Thomason). They act as sidekicks where they can, but in truth, Lawrence fills up so much of the screen with his manic energy that everyone else must give way. There’s little room for other actors to stand out lest they end up in his pyrotechnic cloud. If you can tolerate the actor’s histrionics, then you’ll make it out of this movie. But it’s an endurance, especially considering the unimaginative route this story takes. While it shows Jamal as a fish out of water time traveler, there’s nothing particular about this period that makes the story special. You could stick him anywhere in history and play everything for the exact same laughs. The filmmakers prove this much in the closing scene, which shows Jamal trapped in a Roman coliseum just as some lions are sprung from their cages. Thankfully the dismal performance of this movie ensured there wouldn’t be a second.
Prod: Arnon Milchan, Darryl J. Quarles, Michael Green, Paul Schiff
Dir: Gil Junger
Writer: Darryl J. Quarles, Peter Gaulke, Gerry Swallow
Cast: Martin Lawrence, Marsha Thomason, Tom Wilkinson, Kevin Conway, Vincent Regan, Darryl Mitchell, Jeannette Weegar
Time: 95 min
Country: United States