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Film / Black Knight (2001)

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Black Knight is a 2001 comedy directed by Gil Junger, starring Martin Lawrence as a slacker named Jamal Walker who works at a crappy theme park called Medieval World, which is about to be put out of business by the similar but much higher-rated Castle World. While cleaning the moat, Jamal spots a golden necklace and, trying to reach it, falls in the water. He finds himself a Fish out of Temporal Water in Medieval England, although it takes him some time to realize that the castle he finds himself in is not Castle World.

Jamal accidentally passes himself off as the messenger from the Duke of Normandy, who seeks to marry King Leo's daughter and secure an alliance. After finally figuring out that he's actually in The Dung Ages, Jamal decides to play along lest he lose his head. Not long after, Jamal meets Victoria, a black servant girl; she turns out to be working for La Résistance, whose goal is to kill Leo and restore the deposed queen to her rightful throne. As King Leo quickly befriends Jamal, he finds himself caught between both sides. Not surprisingly, Hilarity Ensues.

The film contains examples of the following tropes:

  • The Alcoholic: Sir Knolte became this after the Queen was deposed on his watch. He quickly snaps out of it thanks to Jamal.
  • All Just a Dream: This is what Jamal figures his adventure was after being woken up with a defibrillator. Six weeks later, he can barely remember what happened.
  • And You Were There: The first person Jamal sees after waking up is a paramedic who looks exactly like the Queen. Later, he meets Doppelgänger Replacement Love Interest Nicky, who is a dead ringer for Victoria. She even has the same scar that was inflicted upon Victoria by Percival.
  • Affably Evil: King Leo is a usurper who is willing to kill anyone who crosses him, but he's also fairly jovial and is amused by Jamal's antics for the most part.
  • All Part of the Show: What Jamal thinks the execution is after he makes the "announcement" to King Leo until Jamal holds the disembodied head.
  • Arranged Marriage: King Leo has promised his daughter's hand to the Duke of Normandy in return for an alliance. However, when the Duke's (real) messenger finds out that the princess is no longer a virgin (Jamal is caught with her in bed, although he claims that she had already lost her "flower"), he informs Leo that his Duke will no longer be interested in either the marriage or the alliance.
  • Artistic License – History: Naturally. Neither King Leo or the Queen were real. The actual king in that era was Edward III. Probably this indicates it really was All Just a Dream.
    • Although, it does take some very loose inspiration from the nearly 20 civil war between King Stephen and the Empress Matilda (which ended only when Stephen recognized Matilda's son Henry II as his heir).
  • Black Knight: Jamal sees a puppet show about the legendary figure and then a couple of prisoners tell him the story. He decides that La Résistance needs a symbol and becomes it.
  • Bodyguard Betrayal: See Dragon Ascendant entry below.
  • Boxing Battler: Jamal uses boxing moves to defeat three medieval bullies, who were quite strong but clearly didn't know how to fight, and were confused by Jamal's stances and footwork. Sir Knolte later asks if Jamal can teach him this "rope-a-dope".
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Jamal puts on a Drill Sergeant Nasty performance when King Leo orders a peasant to be executed:
    Jamal: That's the king, you look at him! Say "King, I'm sorry!"
    Peasant: King, I'm sorry!
    Jamal: "King, I apologize!"
    Peasant: King, I apologize!
    Jamal: "King, that's my ass!"
    Peasant: King, that's my ass!
  • Calling Me a Logarithm: Jamal, in his typical manner, refers to Knolte as "dawg".
    Sir Knolte: I am Sir Knolte of Marlborough, and I am not a dog.
  • Clarke's Third Law: When about to be executed, Jamal tries to impress the locals by claiming to be a powerful sorcerer. He uses his lighter to make fire. A bored peasant replies that they already have fire.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Jamal becames a heroic Black Knight as a symbol for the heroic resistance.
  • Disney Villain Death: What happens to both Percy and King Leo.
  • Doppelgänger Replacement Love Interest: Six weeks after waking up, Jamal meets Nicky, who looks exactly like Victoria (whom he called Vicky) but has an over-the-top American accent. He has a sense of deja vu (he has forgotten those events like a dream) and assumes he knows her from his night classes at the community college where she's a registrar. He does notice that Nicky has a scar on her neck that she doesn't remember getting, which matches where Percival drew Victoria's blood with his sword.
  • Dragon Ascendant: During the battle, the scared King Leo demands that Percival save him at any cost. Percival, who has finally had enough of the guy, tells him to shut up and pushes him off the castle wall.
  • Dragon-in-Chief: Percival, who serves as Jamal's main antagonist throughout the film, is also a top-ranked soldier aligned with King Leo.
  • The Dung Ages:
    • Before he realizes he's actually in the past, Jamal gets a touch of this when he needs to go to the bathroom and sees what Medieval privies were like. He tells the confused squire that there's such a thing as too much realism.
    • He's later disgusted when Victoria uses leeches to make him feel better.
    • Earlier, he tries to get Victoria's number and asks for a pen and paper. Incredulous, Victoria asks if he can read and write. Jamal asks who she has been dating until now.
    • During the royal dinner scene, Jamal watches in disgust how the king and the nobles eat (e.g. eating without utensils, farting, letting dogs lick their fingers).
    • Then there's the fact that the only woman who gets any respect is the Queen. Victoria is constantly treated like a maid and none of the rebels (except for Sir Knolte) listen to her ideas. One of them tells her to make more gruel, if she wants to help. They also send her to have sex with Jamal when he shows interest. King Leo promised his daughter to the Duke of Normandy, and she's clearly not thrilled about the prospect.
  • Eternal English: Jamal has little trouble communicating with Medieval Englishmen. At first, he tries using Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe but then quickly switches back to his normal speech when the locals are confused. This points to it simply being a dream, since actual English from the time would be nearly incomprehensible to modern speakers (and vice versa). Also, after ending up in Ancient Grome, the single spoken line is in English instead of Latin.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Played straight by the native Medieval citizens, averted by Jamal:
    Derek: Our deaths will not be in vain.
    Jamal: Good, good. [panicking suddenly] ... DEATH?! Wha— ain't nobody dyin' in here! Aw! That white girl came on to ME!
  • Feet-First Introduction: Sir Knolte.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Jamal, a street-wise African-American slacker, finds himself in Medieval England. The Sequel Hook has him end up in Ancient Grome about to be mauled by lions.
  • Foreign Queasine: After swimming out of the lake and still thinking he's in his own time, Jamal meets a homeless man (who turns out to be Sir Knolte) who offers him some dead forest animal. Jamal is disgusted. Later, though, he does get some normal food in the King's castle.
    Sir Knolte: Are you hungry?
    Jamal: What is that, man?
    Sir Knolte: 'Tis food.
    Jamal: 'Tis road kill, man!
  • I Know Madden Kombat: Jamal has little to no swordsmanship training, so he improvises with his sports knowledge. He does a leaping overhead swing by imitating a slam dunk, and also swings his sword like a baseball bat and golf club.
  • Immodest Orgasm: When needing to talk to Victoria, he has the guards ask for her for the night. While they're talking he has her do this trope so that the listening guards don't get suspicious.
  • I'm Mr. [Future Pop Culture Reference]: Just for fun, Jamal has himself introduced to the court as Jamal "Sky" Walker. They, in turn, think his name is "Skywalker" and address him as such throughout the film.
  • Insistent Terminology: Jamal really gets tired of being called a Moor.
  • A Little Something We Call "Rock and Roll": When asked to entertain King Leo with his "Norman" dance, Jamal ends up getting the minstrels to help him sing "Dance to the Music" by Sly and the Family Stone with the entire court getting up to dance.
  • Look Behind You: BEHOLD!
  • Mistaken for Special Guest: Jamal, who proclaims that he's from "Florence and Normandie" (street), is mistaken for the messenger from the Duke of Normandy. Later, the real messenger shows up.
  • Off with His Head!: Jamal's wake-up call that he's not in Castle World comes when an executed rebel's head rolls to his feet. He picks it up thinking it's a prop and promptly faints when he realizes that it's real.
  • Rousing Speech: The Queen attempts one, only for the rebels to get turned off as it's extemely histrionic. Jamal has more success, though he also initially bombs with a monologue about Rodney King.
  • Sequel Hook: Jamal's second fall into the moat has him end up in Ancient Grome just before the credits roll.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Jamal notices Percival and another soldier playing chess. He takes the soldier's place, figuring that Percival would be easy to beat. He loses in two moves.
  • Time Travel for Fun and Profit: During his time in King Leo's court, Jamal tries to capitalize on his knowledge of the future by introducing fashions, ride-throughs (akin to modern drive-thru restaurants), and the Frappuccino.
  • Token Minority Couple: Jamal and Victoria, the only two black people in this setting.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Princess Regina isn't seen during or after the final battle against her father.
  • Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: Still thinking he's auditioning for a job at Castle World, Jamal responds to King Leo's question in this manner.
    Jamal: The duke will arriveth in all his royal pomposity and splendor on Tuesday.
  • You Are Already Checked In: Martin Lawrence's character Jamal is a Fish out of Temporal Water who hasn't yet realized he's in Medieval England. He assumes that the castle is a rival theme park and, when asked by the guards where he's from, replies that he's from Florence and Normandie (an intersection in South Central). They immediately assume he's the messenger from the Duke of Normandy whom they have been expecting. After figuring out that he really is in the past, Jamal continues the ruse to avoid being beheaded. Then the real messenger arrives a few days later, and Jamal is discovered in bed with the princess. Not only is his ruse exposed, but his tryst costs the king his alliance with the Duke of Normandy, who was expected to marry the princess (who must be a virgin, of course, although Jamal claims that she already wasn't).

Alternative Title(s): Black Knight