© Leonine Distribution GmbH

Arthur der Große (Arthur the King)
U.S.A. 2024

Opening 25 Apr 2024

Directed by: Simon Cellan Jones
Writing credits: Michael Brandt, Mikael Lindnord
Principal actors: Mark Wahlberg, Simu Liu, Juliet Rylance, Nathalie Emmanuel, Ali Suliman

What a delightful, multitiered film Welsh director Simon Cellan Jones has crafted, besides initiating audiences to extreme sports—makes triathlons look like a walk in the park—and the passions that charge/fuel them. Arthur the King is about personal challenges and overcoming prerogatives: sacrificing, teamwork, friendships, loyalty and, a mongrel with heart and smarts. Based on Mikael Lindnord’s 2016 nonfiction book, Arthur:The Dog Who Crossed the Jungle to Find a Home, Michael Brandt’s heartfelt screenplay captures those aspects that the strong cast bring to exhilarating life.

Following a humiliating failure in Costa Rica in 2015, extreme athlete Mikael Light (Mark Wahlberg) takes a three-year hiatus with teammate-wife. Concurrently, lots of stray cats and dogs roam Santo Domingo’s streets. Happily retired in Colorado, Helen’s (Juliet Rylance) challenges are mothering Ruby (Cece Valentina) and managing Mikael who, working for his dad (Paul Guilfoyle), still trains, still dreams. Mike wants to give it one last shot. In Santo Domingo, one pooch stands out by outsmarting even human mutts.

Mike approaches Chik (Ali Suliman) first. As Mikael makes a pitch for corporate sponsorship—cut to his pitching Olivia (Nathalie Emmanuel), climber extraordinaire and the renowned Hugo Baker’s (Oscar Best) daughter. To seal the deal Mike must get social networker extraordinaire Liam (Simu Liu) on his team. Skimming through the frenzy of acclimatizing to Santa Domingo while training, within days the Adventure Racing World Championship starts; Mike’s nemesis Decker (Rob Collins) taunts him.

The race is rigorous, risk-taking, well-organized, hectic, grueling, sometimes fractious, and its physicality includes running, hiking, bicycling, and climbing. Chik’s course cuts miles, while presenting different challenges. At one designated rest point, a mutt’s woebegoneness catches Mike’s attention; at another, its purposefulness is noted, until at another “He must have wings we didn’t know about.” Not until it barks and growls is their shaggy companion truly appreciated. The canine’s attitude earns him the name Arthur, “…he’s like the King.” The ultimate test is kayaking—it will determine their team spirit, and where they place crossing the finish line.

Production values are impressive: Gary Roach’s editing keeps audiences at pace with the action, Jacques Jouffret’s cinematography is expansive, explorative and Kevin Matley’s music glides. There is something so doggone endearing about this film you might just want to see it again. (Marinell Haegelin)

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