‘Arthur the King’ Review: Dog Days With Mark Wahlberg

‘Arthur the King’ Review: Dog Days With Mark Wahlberg

“Arthur the King” — part gooey dog drama, part survivalist joyride — stars Mark Wahlberg as Michael, an American version of the Swedish adventure racer Mikael Lindnord.

In 2014, Lindnord was competing in the Adventure Racing World Championships in Ecuador when a stray dog, whom he named Arthur, decided to tag along. That meant trekking through the jungle, up mountains, and across rivers, surviving on rationed meatballs and gulps of water.

The film, directed by Simon Cellan Jones, is a Wahlberg production through and through: Expect some brawny athleticism and a hotheaded family man on a quest for redemption.

The movie begins with Michael acting like a hypercompetitive jerk; his arrogance costs his team a big race. Three years later, Michael’s gone domestic — but a “racer’s gotta race,” he tells his wife and former teammate, Helena (Juliet Rylance). The motto inadvertently recalls the satire of “Talladega Nights,” but “Arthur” plays it mostly straight, with his teammate Leo (Simu Liu), an Instagram celebrity, as the movie’s source of comic charisma.

As Michael continues to recruit the members of his new team for another big race — the expert climber Olivia (Nathalie Emmanuel), the seasoned navigator Chik (Ali Suliman) — we see Arthur roaming the streets of Santo Domingo (the film was shot in the Dominican Republic), fending off bullies, and generally looking miserable. The dog and his future master don’t join forces until nearly halfway through the film, at which point Michael and his team have already braved several obstacles, including a bracing zip-line malfunction that leaves Olivia, and two bikes, dangling from Michael’s harness.

Sure, the film plays like a tourism ad for the Dominican Republic, but at least the action is palpable. And the story is typical paint-by-numbers inspirational — some bids at emotion feel awfully forced. Still, Wahlberg and company manage to hold your attention, and not just because there’s a cute dog in the frame.

Arthur the King
Rated PG-13 for athletic suspense and dog injuries. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes. In theaters.

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