Movie review: ‘Arthur the King’ a grand adventure with a furry friend

In “Arthur the King,” Michael Light (Mark Wahlberg) is desperate to erase a very public failure in a previous Adventure Racing World Championship, so he puts together a new team to give it one more go. Based on a true story, the group adopts an unexpected teammate along the way, in an injured stray they call Arthur — bringing the group closer together on their perilous journey.

Perhaps because it’s literally a race, and there’s no time to waste, this team of four is barely developed beyond Michael’s obsession with winning the race above all else. The other teammates are limited to one-fact characterization: guy with a bad knee (Ali Suliman), girl with the dying father (Nathalie Emmanuel), and guy who only wants to go viral (Simu Liu).

With a script restricting their ability to show their stuff, the acting can sometimes be stiff. Emmanuel (Game of Thrones) loses her British accent for the role, but in the process loses genuine emotion in her words.

But it’s Marky Mark in the leading role that comes across like he does in every role he’s had before — those intensely furrowed, unchanging eyes, and that same delivery of his lines. He’s not a diverse actor. Yet now that I’ve heard Mark Wahlberg talk to a dog, I’ve made a connection with every performance prior: he always sounds like he’s talking to a dog.

Think about it. Hear him in your mind. In so many movies before, that heavily parodied cadence and inflection mirrors that rising pitch we all take when talking to a sweet pooch.

This is a role he was born to play.

The Adventure Racing World Championship was a thrilling emotional rollercoaster all on its own. Racing across exotic terrains of the Dominican Republic, with a shaky cam giving it an action feel and high drama throughout, I was surprised to realize halfway through the film that the dog had barely been shown. And I was okay with that, because I was enthralled, on the edge of my seat regardless.

Yes, the movie was working for me without Arthur. But once the dog begins to be more heavily featured, he only adds to the drama, making the adventure that much more emotionally engaging. There’s something undeniable about our connection with man’s best friend, and in its most tender moments, the story is likely to bring a surround sound of sniffles to the audience.

Like the race it depicts, “Arthur the King” is a test of the audience’s endurance. It’s exhausting, and the payoff is that feeling of love that comes with the loyalty and friendship that the adventure team shares with another.

And, of course — the love of a dog.

4 / 5 Wahlbergs

Scott McDaniel is an assistant professor of journalism at Franklin College. He lives in Bargersville with his wife and three kids.