Arthur the King

Determined to take one last shot at the Adventure Racing World Championship series, a hiking, biking and kayaking race across a 435 mile route over ten days, Michael Light (Mark Wahlberg) assembles a team and convinces a sponsor to back them.  But it will be an unexpected mascot that gets them over the finish line, a stray dog Michael names “Arthur the King.”

Laura's Review: B-

This film, which changes Swedish racer Mikael Lindnord’s 2014 race in Ecuador to an American racing in 2018 Dominican Republic, may have flaws but when all is said and done it comes down to one thing – a heroic stray dog, and who can resist that?  That the dog has a parallel story in Michael Light not only fleshes out both characters, but adds an extreme sporting element.

Michael Brandt (2007’s “3:10 to Yuma”) adapts Lindnord’s ‘Arthur: The Dog Who Crossed the Jungle to Find a Home’ by introducing us to a man considered one of the greatest adventure racers who never won a race.  But while Michael adores his wife, ex-racer Helena (Juliet Rylance, HBO’s ‘Perry Mason’), and his young daughter Ruby, he’s in a bad place mentally, chafing against his dad’s (Paul Guilfoyle, (L.A. Confidential") efforts to turn him into a realtor and still embarrassed by the widely seen photo snapped by teammate Leo (Simu Liu, "Barbie") when he led his last team into a mire – and a loss.  Recognizing his discontent, Helen encourages him to go for it one last time.

That does not prove at all easy given his track record.  After calling on seven time champ Chik (Ali Suliman, "The Kingdom"), recently cut from his team for a knee injury, to navigate, Michael recruits young climber Olivia (Nathalie Emmanuel, "Furious 7"), the daughter of the legendary Hugo Baker (Oscar Best), who only agrees to please her dad.  Calling out his weaknesses, his corporate sponsor only will agree to half of Michael’s proposed budget and only if he secures Leo, now an Instagram sports clothing model with hundreds of thousands of followers, on his team.

While Michael fights to get a team into the race, director Simon Cellan Jones (“The Family Plan”) crosscuts to the sad-eyed shaggy mutt living on the streets of Santo Domingo, but although we can tell the dog has had rough times, it is unclear just what has happened to him.  At one point we see the dog limping severely, then not, then appear with a bloody side which seems to disappear when two growling street dogs go after him.  The dog will be one of many skirting the perimeter of Transition area 1, but it will be Michael who catches his eye and offers the suffering but disciplined dog a couple of meatballs from a ration pack.

Michael’s Team Broadrail is one of fifty-four entering the race and while they find themselves making good time,  they are soon beset by issues.  One shortcut found by Chik turns out to end in a cliff which Olivia encourage them all to climb with their bikes on their backs while another turns out to be a rather perilous zipline, one which Michael must rescue Olivia from in a scene right out of ‘Cliffhanger.”  After all that, Michael is astonished to see the same stray appear out of nowhere over two hundred miles later.  The dog not only refuses to leave their side, but, while crossing rough terrain in the dark and rain, prevents the team from tumbling over a steep cliff.  Suffering injuries and little sleep, Team Broadrail finds itself in first place, their mascot having turned them  into a news phenomenon, but when a race official won’t let Michael take the dog he’s named Arthur aboard his kayak, he’ll have to make a tough decision.

Despite a climactic moment that drew guffaws at the screening I attended, it must be said that an earnest Wahlberg convinces us of the strong bond between his character and Arthur (a mutt named Ukai), Jones (and his editor) capturing their intense eye-to-eye communication.  The story works as well as it does because Arthur represents everything that makes up Team Broadrail, a bunch of tired and injured misfits that somehow manage to make things work.  “Arthur the King” is a feel good movie based on a true story that the whole family can enjoy.  The real Lindnord family and their Arthur are featured during the film’s closing credits.

Lionsgate releases "Arthur the King" in theaters on 3/15/24.