Arthur the King film poster and movie review

Movie Reviews

Arthur the King

Reviewed by:
Luke Bonanno on March 15, 2024

Theatrical Release:
March 15, 2024

Mark Wahlberg stars in what both is and is not a dog movie.

Running Time107 min

RatingPG-13

Running Time 107 min

RatingPG-13

Simon Cellan Jones

Michael Brandt, Mikael Lindnord

Mark Wahlberg (Michael Light), Simu Liu (Leo), Juliet Rylance (Helena Light), Nathalie Emmanuel (Olivia), Ali Suliman (Chik), Bear Grylls (Himself), Paul Guilfoyle (Daddy Light)


Arthur the King (2024)

by Luke Bonanno

Mark Wahlberg will turn 53 this summer and at this point, what you know is what you get. In stark contrast to the short-lived underwear model and hip-hop artist phases with which his career began over thirty years ago, Wahlberg has shown remarkable longevity in film.

In an industry where one misfire can end things in a hurry, Wahlberg has managed to make and recover from many a mistake, having also made a handful of staggered right choices that will secure him cinematic immortality. Those right choices would almost certainly begin with filling the lead role in Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1997 breakout hit Boogie Nights, a revered rise-and-fall epic that Wahlberg publically voiced regret over making on its twentieth anniversary.

Another landmark achievement and one thus far not publicly disavowed was being the lone Oscar-nominated member of a cast that included Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, and Martin Sheen in The Departed, the 2006 Boston mob movie that gave director Martin Scorsese the only Academy Award of his illustrious career. There was also Wahlberg’s collaboration with David O. Russell, which gave us the spirited 2004 flop I Heart Huckabees and the 2010 classic The Fighter. That fruitful partnership came to a sudden end when Wahlberg’s expensive contract clauses priced him out of the budget of Russell’s follow-up effort, Silver Linings Playbook, resulting in a personnel change directly responsible for Bradley Cooper’s thriving career as a serious actor and filmmaker.

The misses of Wahlberg’s career surely outnumber the hits. They include performances in laughable lows for a couple of iconic auteurs: Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes (2001) and M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening (2008). Even when overtly prioritizing commerce over art, Wahlberg hasn’t had the best instincts, attaching his clout to two installments of a Transformers franchise past its prime and the financially formidable but ridiculously bad 2022 video game adaptation Uncharted. There have also been two high-profile mindless paydays for Netflix in the buddy comedy Me Time with Kevin Hart and the IP-betraying Spenser Confidential that downgraded his once-impressive record with director Peter Berg (Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon, Patriots Day).

Wahlberg’s more recent attempts to show off his dramatic chops in what on paper at least sound like potential awards contenders — 2021’s Joe Bell and 2022’s Father Stu — have fallen short with critics and moviegoers alike. And yet, the former Marky Mark endures, his infamous 3:30 AM rise-and-workout sessions keeping his leading man looks intact and now about fifteen to twenty years behind his actual age (which is the same age Wilford Brimley was on NBC’s “Our House” in the 1980s). Wahlberg’s lucrative side hustles as power producer, fitness spokesman, and the most famous owner of his family’s flourishing casual dining chain Wahlburgers ensure that nothing — not a well-documented criminal adolescence nor a cringeworthy, tone-deaf quote about 9/11 nor a prayer app in an increasingly secular time — is going to push him out of relevance and the public eye anytime soon.

Endurance racer michael light (mark wahlberg) will do anything to get his team to the finish line first in "arthur the king. "

Which brings us to Arthur the King, Wahlberg’s latest movie, his 48th as leading actor. Though the title may conjure images of Knights of the Round Table, the poster makes clear that this is a dog movie. In fact, Arthur both is and isn’t a dog movie. For large stretches of its brisk 107-minute runtime, the movie focuses on Michael Light (Wahlberg), a man who lives and breathes adventure racing but has always come up short in competitions requiring four-member teams to hike, bike, and row to a finish line in challenging conditions.

Not cut out for his father’s (Paul Guilfoyle) namesake realty business, three years after experiencing Instagram-viral embarrassment in defeat, Michael assembles a team for the next big endurance ride, which includes a sponsor-mandated influencer (Barbie‘s Simu Liu), an old pro with an ailing knee (Ali Suliman), and a climber (Nathalie Emmanuel) following in her accomplished father’s footsteps.

With a young daughter and a fit, loving, and financially supportive wife (Juliet Rylance) back home, Michael and his three teammates set off for the wilds of the Dominican Republic, where they will brave injury, dehydration, and assorted danger in an effort to win the big race.

The scrappy Arthur features in the picture peripherally, until he crosses paths with Michael and company, coming to be embraced as an inspiration and good luck charm of sorts.

Mark wahlberg comes to be upstaged by a scrappy dog he names "arthur the king. "

Arthur was filmed back in early 2021, shortly before Wahlberg gained 30 pounds to play Father Stu. The movie changed studios multiple times, originating at Paramount Players, moving to Lionsgate, where it was dropped but later re-acquired. It also lost Wahlberg’s 2 Guns and Contraband director Baltasar Kormákur due to “scheduling conflicts”, although the spirit of his 2015 adventure Everest appears to have been upheld by British TV director Simon Cellan Jones, who has since reunited with Wahlberg on last year’s Apple TV+ action comedy The Family Plan.

There are not many surprises to Arthur, which does a decent job of holding our interest in human adventurers before putting its scruffy namesake in the foreground for antics that are intended to make dog lovers melt. No, the dog does not die in the movie. (In real life, he did shortly before production began but at a ripe old age.) He does, however, get some pretty bad boo-boos and by the end emerge as the true star of the film.

As a father of four and a devout Catholic, Wahlberg has increasingly gravitated towards movies with family values and away from the adult action movies on which he built his brand. As a result, either his fanbase has changed or it needs to. Uncharted is his only major box office performer since his pair of Daddy’s Home comedies and Transformers sequels. But that isn’t unusual at a time when moviegoing seems to need “saving” every few months. It’s quite likely that Wahlberg will keep doing what Kevin Hart and fellow New Englander Adam Sandler now do, making low-risk, wide-reaching movies at Netflix for big payouts and staggering theatrical tests of his star power. Wahlberg’s next movie, The Union, will head straight to the streamer this summer. It’s safe to say that that action thriller will reach more already-subscribed viewers on television and handheld devices than Arthur will in theaters as a one-time purchase you’ve got to leave home to make.

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