Warped

Time traveler doesn't journey far enough.

BLACK KNIGHT

directed by Gil Junger with Martin Lawrence opens Nov. 21 at Meridian, Varsity, and others

MICHAEL BAY must pay. The first of the Pearl Harbor director's many cinematic offenses was 1995's Bad Boys, thus introducing two marginally talented sitcom boors, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, to big-budget Hollywood. Smith sometimes attempts dramatic legitimacy (e.g. Ali) but never strays too far from his masher roots (Men in Black 2).

By contrast, Lawrence won't even try to outgrow his womanizing ghetto soldier persona. He doesn't star in films; he stars in vehicles, preferably cheap, low-concept comedies that put his tart tongue in banal fish-out-of- water predicaments.

Black Knight, the urban cousin to Sam Raimi's Army of Darkness, hasn't a single honest laugh to feed you. Lawrence plays Jamal, a working stiff who grabs a gold medallion that whisks him away to 14th-century England to contend with beheadings, gruel, horse dung, and other stale genre staples. Jamal had been considering ditching his job at a mom-and-pop medieval theme park for a corporate medieval theme park. (C'mon, people, give the screenwriters a big hand!) Hence, the inevitable where-the-hell-am-I? moment is delayed for a half-hour while he thinks the ubiquitous, grimy townsfolk are merely employees.

From there, it's an all-ages version of Spot the Cliché® Jamal is immediately smitten with a comely chambermaid, draws the ire of a smirking, nobleman, and helps the oppressed retake not only their kingdom but their pride. Naturally he pauses to introduce the old-school set to IKEA, Shaq, thongs, and bling-bling. During the interminable title sequence, Lawrence brushes, flosses, tweezes, shaves, and mugs into a fish-eye lens. We don't need a sorcerer to predict that Knight's future will be black indeed.

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