Arthur the King Review: A Noble Attempt That Fails To Translate

Arthur the King (2024).

Arthur the King, a film directed by Simon Cellan Jones, graces the silver screen as an attempt to weave the heartwarming real-life story of a dog named Arthur and an adventure racing team into a cinematic experience. The movie is inspired by the 2016 non-fiction book Arthur – The Dog Who Crossed the Jungle to Find a Home by Mikael Lindnord, aiming to translate a tale of perseverance and unexpected companionship into a family-friendly adventure narrative. However, despite its promising premise and star-studded cast, including Mark Wahlberg, Simu Liu, and Juliet Rylance, the film only partly succeeds in its mission, leaving audiences with a lukewarm impression.

The plot centers on a group of mountain climbers who embark on an arduous competition through the challenging terrains of the Dominican Republic. Amidst the struggle and camaraderie that defines the core of any adventure race, they encounter a stray dog, who, despite being injured, clings to the team’s leader, played by Mark Wahlberg in the role of Michael Light. Wahlberg’s character, reflective of Lindnord himself, attempts to form a bond with Arthur, fostering an inter-species friendship that serves as the emotional backbone of the narrative.

From a performance standpoint, Wahlberg delivers a serviceable rendition of a seasoned adventure racer. However, his connection with Arthur at times feels superficial, lacking the depth that the real-life story likely offered. Simu Liu’s Leo adds charm and humor to the ensemble, balancing drama and light-hearted moments. Juliet Rylance, as Helena Light, brings a commendable performance. Sadly,  the script offers her little room to shine, leaving her character somewhat in the background. Nathalie Emmanuel‘s portrayal of Olivia rounds out the main cast. She delivers a performance that, while earnest, is similarly hindered by the film’s narrative limitations.

Arthur the King attempts to juggle multiple themes — the challenge of the race, the resilience of the human spirit, and the bonds formed under adversity — yet struggles to delve deeply into any of them. The movie feels episodic, lacking emotional depth or exploration of characters. The cinematography captures the Dominican Republic’s beauty but sometimes lacks creativity.

Furthermore, the film’s pacing feels inconsistent. Some plot points felt rushed while others felt overemphasized. This inconsistency not only disrupts the viewer’s engagement but also diminishes the impact of the story’s more poignant moments. This includes the burgeoning friendship between Michael and Arthur. The screenplay, penned by Michael Brandt, teeters between trying to pay homage to the inspirational story it’s based on and adhering to the expectations of a commercial adventure film, resulting in a final product that satisfies neither ambition fully.

On a positive note, Arthur the King shines in its portrayal of Arthur himself. The film brings the titular character to life with a level of warmth and authenticity that is genuinely touching. The scenes involving the dog are easily the highlight of the film. They showcase a heartfelt connection between animal and humans that transcends the spoken word. It’s in these moments that the film almost reaches its aspirational heights. It reminds audiences of the powerful bond that can form against the odds.

Neglecting the core relationship between scenic vistas and race dynamics harms the film. The film missed the opportunity to deeply explore friendship and mutual survival.

Arthur the King is a film that embarks with promise and potential but fails to fully chart its course. While it has its moments of genuine affection and breathtaking scenery, it falls short of delivering a compelling narrative experience. For those seeking an adventure film that mildly entertains without requiring much emotional investment, it may prove satisfactory. This film fails to deliver a deep exploration of human-animal bonds, resilience, and triumph. Despite its admirable attempt to bring a remarkable true story to life, Arthur the King remains a middling affair. It resonates as a tale not fully told, much like a race not quite won.

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  • Acting - 7/10
    7/10
  • Cinematography/Visual Effects - 5/10
    5/10
  • Plot/Screenplay - 4.5/10
    4.5/10
  • Setting/Theme - 4.5/10
    4.5/10
  • Watchability - 5/10
    5/10
  • Rewatchability - 4/10
    4/10
Overall
5/10
5/10
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About Caillou Pettis

Caillou Pettis is a professional film critic and journalist as well as the author of While You Sleep, The Inspiring World of Horror: The Movies That Influenced Generations, and co-author of Out of Time: True Paranormal Encounters. He has been writing in the entertainment industry for over seven and a half years professionally. Throughout the years, he has written articles for publications including Gold Derby, Exclaim!, CBR, Awards Radar, Awards Watch, Flickering Myth, BRWC, Starburst Magazine, Punch Drunk Critics, Mediaversity Reviews, Vinyl Chapters, Northern Transmissions, and Beats Per Minute.