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  • Nate Adams

'Arthur the King' review: An adorable canine heightens inspirational true story


Courtesy of Lionsgate

 

There have been plenty of movies focused on lovable canine companions since the dawn of cinema, and most of them follow a pretty standard formula. The latest entry in the “does the dog die or live” genre, “Arthur the King,” is not interested in subverting expectations, though it manages to effectively put its main subject front and center without relying too much on manipulative tactics. Those moments exist, obviously, but the relationships are what propel this one forward and it engages both the human and canine characters on a deeper level in a way that’s authentic. 


Directed by Simon Cellan Jones, and adapted from the book of the same by screenwriter Micheal Brandt, “Arthur the King” tells the true story of a 2018 adventure racing team who went the distance in the outskirts of the Dominican Republic and, on their expedition, encountered a dog who became an unlikely ally. Mark Whalberg leads the way playing Micheal, who, we see in the opening scenes, tried running the course before his ego kept the team, which consisted of social media influencer Leo (Simu Liu), a handicapped Chik (Ali Suliman) and steady climber Olivia (Nathalie Emmanuel), from crossing the finish line. 


Now, years later, they’re back for redemption and have to zig and zag through the jungle, sea, and the treacherous mountsides where their physical and mental stamina will get put through the ringer. But the company gets an unexpected addition late in the race when they stumble upon Arthur, who has been miraculously following them on their hellacious three day hike. In need of a morale boost, the squad adopts Arthur as their official mascot and he quickly becomes an overnight viral sensation everyone is rooting for. 


It makes for a warm-hearted journey that, too, has its fair share of thrills, including one exhilarating sequence where Olivia and Micheal are dangling (with their bicycles!) on a zipline, miles above the ground, in the middle of the jungle. It might feel out of place in a film that’s supposed to be centered around an adorable dog, but it’s handled with a delicate urgency and edge-of-your-seat cadence that you quickly lose yourself in the moment. It’s also an engrossing scene that never takes away from the core of the movie. 


“Arthur the King'' certainly takes liberties with the source material, but sometimes it’s perfectly fine to let an inspirational movie about a dog who does extraordinary things wash over you. The cast all does a fine job, especially Wahlberg as the gruff leader of the brigade trying to win the big race, and, in the end, it all adds up to a wholesome family-friendly adventure that, for better or worse, comes exactly as advertised. Mostly for the better. 


Grade: B 


ARTHUR THE KING is now playing in theaters. 


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