A blitz of high-priced talent was enlisted for this big-budget spectacle–director Tim Burton (“”Batman,”” “”Beetlejuice,”” “”Sleepy Hollow””), makeup-man extraordinaire Rick Baker, master scoresmith Danny Elfman–but little thought seems to have been devoted to creating an original story or distinctive characters.
The result is two hours of seamlessly produced, state of the art, nonstop eye candy–further evidence, if any was needed, that mainstream movie audiences want nothing more than to turn off their brains and be tickled senseless. “”Planet of the Apes”” pushes the same buttons that made popcorn-munching hordes go apeshit over “”The Mummy Returns.””
Fully up to the action-packed task here is Mark Wahlberg (“”The Perfect Storm,”” “”Boogie Nights””), a serviceable actor who has steadily risen through the ranks by dint of his broad, open features, muscular presence, and unassuming, schoolboy charm. As Leo Davidson, an astronaut on a space research station, circa 2029, he’s not called upon to do much more here, acting-wise, than furrow his brow and summon a expression of grave seriousness.
“”Hardball”” might have been a decent movie, if it wasn’t so racially insensitive, monotonous, stale, insulting and completely predictable. In the spirit of the film’s cliched screenplay, I’ll try and describe this mess using as many baseball catchphrases as possible.
For starters, author Daniel Coyle lobs a sure-fire screenplay based on his nonfiction novel,
Martin Lawrence’s fans should love “”Black Knight,”” though that’s hardly a glowing recommendation. By now, the comedian’s crowd knows what to expect from his efforts, and the frantic funnyman finds a way to deliver the intended laughs. If you’ve neverconsidered yourself a Lawrence fan, then his latest coomedy certainly won’t do anything to win you over to his side, but the comedian’s fans (and you know who you are) shouldn’t be disappointed.
Lawrence plays Jamal Walker, an underachiever working at a run down medieval-themed amusement park who dreams of skipping across town to work for the competition, Castle World. Jamal’s plans are put on hold, though, when he reaches into the moat at his park to pick up a shiny amulet and is mysteriously transported back to 14th century England.Passing himself off as a messanger from France, Jamal lands himself smack dab in the middle of a political uprising by a small faction of peasants who wish to kill the king (Kevin Conway) and reinstate their deposed queen. But its all just a thin setup that allows Lawrence to shamelessly riff, dance and (endlessly) mug his way through a stupid fish-out-of-water routine. Jamal’s love interest, a fair-skinned beauty named Victoria (Marsha Thomason) who recruits our hero for her cause, hits the nail on the head when she flatly tells him, “”You speak with an unusual tongue.”” The problem is he never stops speaking with it. Lawrence established his fan base by lacing crude humor with a psychotic edge. He used to bring a volatility to bland material, and his back-up-off-me attitude always helped elevate him above the buffoons he was cutting down. Here, Martin doesn’t mind playing the fool. At one point, he pretends to be a court jester, which adequately describes his schtick through this flick, and it wears thin almost immediately. “”Black Knight”” originally was written for fellow motor-mouthed comedian Chris Tucker, but it wouldn’t have worked either way. About an hour into the already overlong “”Knight,”” I started paying closer attention to the people sitting in the theater with me. One woman who really enjoyed Lawrence’s antics howled with each toothy grin and cackled every time the actor arched an eyebrow. However, in between gasps of air, the lady kept repeating, “”He’s … so … stupid!”” Glad tosee I wasn’t alone in thinking so.Final Grade: D+Review bySean O’ConnellNovember 21, 2001