"Arthur the King" is emotionally manipulative but still a worthwhile crowd-pleaser

Arthur the King (2024)

It’s part of the human experience to cry when a dog dies, in a movie or not. That’s not to say that the dog, the titular Arthur, in "Arthur the King" doesn’t make it, but “does the dog live?” becomes the ultimate question. Since this is based on a true story, a simple Google search (and the film’s very own marketing) can help in that department to relieve audiences. A masochistic entertainment, maybe, but "Arthur the King" is a worthwhile reminder that dogs are better and more loyal than humans. 

Based upon Mikael Lindnord’s 2017 book Arthur: The Dog Who Crossed the Jungle to Find a Home, the film stars Mark Wahlberg as a non-Swedish version of Mikael: extreme athlete Michael Light. Three years after a 2015 adventure race in Costa Rica, Michael resides in Colorado with his wife and daughter. He joins his father’s real estate team, but Michael knows his real calling, and it’s convincing sponsors to back him and a team of athletes to compete in the ten-day Adventure Racing World Championship in the Dominican Republic. His team includes two former teammates, social media model Leo (Simu Liu) and Chik (Ali Suliman), and climber Olivia (the always-appealing Nathalie Emmanuel). While in Santo Domingo, Michael feeds meatballs to a stray dog. Well, in three days across 200 miles, that same dog ends up following Michael and his team in the jungle without any of them noticing. Michael dubs the dog “Arthur,” and along their journey of terrain cycling, hiking, and kayaking, that loyal furry companion becomes more than a mascot but one of their own. Do you want to cry now or later?

"Arthur the King" is a case of emotional manipulation, but it is a crowd-pleaser through and through. Writer Michael Brandt and director Simon Cellan Jones ("The Family Plan") do make us wait a bit too long until Arthur intersects with Michael and his team. In these scenes without the dog, the film compels just enough with sufficient character work (Michael and Leo learn to set aside their egos and bury the hatchet, Olivia has personal reasons why she decided to join, and Chik has a bad knee from last time). There’s some standard in-fighting in the rain during a significant moment, of course, and plenty of awesome pep talks, but we’re mainly here for the pooch. Read the full review at GuyAtTheMovies.com

Grade: B -

Lionsgate released "Arthur the King" (90 min.) in theaters on March 15, 2024.