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Arthur the King (2024)

Mark Wahlberg learns selflessness from a dog with big, wet eyes, in this surprisingly exciting (and weep-inducing) story of adventure racers and an unlikely furry friend.
Our Rating

Genre(s): Adventure, Drama

Director: Simon Cellan Jones

Actors: Mark Wahlberg, Simu Liu, Juliet Rylance, Nathalie Emmanuel, Ali Suliman

Year: 2024

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Country: USA

Now, I’ve never heard of the Adventure Racing World Championship, but in our world of reality games where people push themselves to physical, gastronomical, and romantic extremes in order to win money, the gist of it doesn’t really surprise me: Teams of endurance athletes compete via trail running, biking, climbing, paddling, etc., all on very little sleep, hoping to cross a finish line hundreds of miles away in mere days. Arthur the King‘s Michael (Mark Wahlberg) is one such adventure racer, whom we meet in a humiliating social media moment when his very bad decision leads his team to be literally stuck in the mud barely across the start line. But after years of licking his wounded pride, he’s getting up in age (I mean, as far as being an athlete), so recruits a team for One Last Race in the Dominican Republic, an island nation that seems as swampy in air as it is in swampy swamps (and other natural obstacles).

The race gets underway, with Michael’s team consisting of Leo (Simu Liu), a cocky Insta-influencer athlete, Olivia (Nathalie Emmanuel), a badass climber with a heavy personal burden, and Chik (Ali Suliman), a former champion even older than Michael. But none of them are named Arthur, you may notice. And Arthur, the sweet doggie who is introduced as a scrappy street dog in the opening scenes, doesn’t really fully cross paths with the athletes (other than meeting them at a rest and refuel stop) until a good halfway through the movie. Until then, Arthur the King is basically a human action/adventure film, as Michael and his team traverse wild landscapes and some particularly harrowing obstacles (the zip line scene just reaffirms that you will not find that particular activity on my bucket list).

When we do finally properly meet Arthur, it’s when Michael’s team recognizes our shaggy scrapper from a stop that was some 200 miles and a couple days before. It seems physically impossible for this mutt (whom they bestow the regal, kingly name due to his patient, noble demeanor) to have followed them there, especially since he seems scrawny and in bad shape. Still, it’s obvious that he will be their trail buddy from then on. With Leo’s social media skills, the team may not find themselves leading the pack quite yet, but their fifth team member has certainly captured the attention and heart of the race’s fans.

Arthur the King may not be groundbreaking as an adventure flick or even a dog movie. But when you have the always-appealing Wahlberg as the star (playing a good guy who finds that selflessness makes him an even better man), and a scruffily-cute canine co-star (who grows a better beard than Wahlberg), heck, you have a winner in my book. Be forewarned though: just as Arthur’s solemn eyes will melt your heart, you bet the film will then aim straight for the tears in the last half hour. Luckily, it’s not quite to the level of Marley and Me torture—but as the whole point of the story is to get the audience to fall in love with Arthur, if you are an animal lover, YOU. WILL. BE. TESTED.

Arthur the King is one of those films where if I happened to catch it on TV on a rainy afternoon, I’d probably settle down and watch the whole thing every time. My partner absolutely refuses to watch animal movies with me, but, as always, I’m a sucker for torture. Arthur the King is a solid film with a sweet pup, some exciting action, and (of course) a good message. And yes, it kind of made me a mess. Who’s a good dog? Arthur, that’s who.

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