‘Arthur the King’ review: Mark Wahlberg and a cute dog anchor an admirable tale of resilience and unlikely friendships

A scene from ‘Arthur The King’ | Photo Credit: AP

Stepping into a cinema without prior exposure to trailers or publicity often doesn’t come with the territory of being a critic. Nevertheless, sometimes one receives this gift, and it’s particularly delightful when the film pulls your expectations into an entirely different direction. Animal-centered movies frequently touch on self-discovery, and Mark Wahlberg’s Arthur the King certainly encompasses that theme, though it also delivers a pleasantly unexpected experience.

At the film’s core, it’s the light narrative of Arthur the King that captivates, until the story’s predictability begins to surface. Michael, played by Mark Wahlberg, rallies his group of adventurers for a new expedition race after overcoming a difficult period. His team, each grappling with their personal battles from coping with social media addiction to physical injuries and family illness, embarks on this challenge. Meanwhile, we are introduced to Arthur, a stray and wounded dog navigating life on the busy streets of the Dominican Republic. It’s during the race that Michael and his crew come across Arthur, who, after being fed a meatball, astonishingly follows them, thus joining their arduous journey.

Arthur the King (English)

Director: Simon Cellan Jones

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Ukai the dog, Simu Liu, Juliet Rylance, Nathalie Emmanuel, Ali Suliman

Runtime: 107 minutes

Storyline: A stranded canine becomes an integral part of an adventure racing team’s story

In Arthur the King, the initial half spends little time on the charming four-legged star, Ukai, and focuses more on establishing Michael’s relationship with his family and his dedication to the race. The sparse early moments featuring Arthur don’t contribute significantly, underscoring only his solitary struggle. It’s their subsequent encounter, and Arthur’s unexpected reappearance, that marks the beginning of a partnership essential to the tale.

Mark Wahlberg in a scene from ‘Arthur The King’

Mark Wahlberg in a scene from ‘Arthur The King’ | Photo Credit: Carlos Rodriguez

The emotional resonance of the film is amplified by its origin story, inspired by ‘Arthur – The Dog Who Crossed the Jungle to Find a Home,’ a real-life account by Mikael Lindnord, an athlete whose encounter with Arthur in Ecuador led to his newer calling as a writer. Heartfelt moments, such as the team’s temporary separation from Arthur during a kayak stint, make the film’s emotional depth impossible to ignore. The production splendidly captures the vast landscapes of the Dominican Republic and includes a particularly remarkable zipline sequence. The film also successfully demystifies adventure racing for viewers unfamiliar with the sport through explanatory commentary.

However, when the novelty of the story wanes, and the predictability of the underdog narrative (quite literally involving a dog) sets in, you might guess what’s in store. But even then, the film compensates for this with the bond that develops between Wahlberg’s character and his canine counterpart, ensuring Arthur rightfully shares the limelight. In essence, Arthur the King tells a touching story of overcoming obstacles together, and it possesses the charm to captivate your affections.

Arthur the King is now showing in theaters.

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