The Austin Chronicle

A Kid in King Arthur's Court

Rated PG, 85 min. Directed by Michael Gottlieb. Starring Thomas Ian Nichols, Joss Ackland, Ron Moody, Paloma Baeza.

REVIEWED By Hollis Chacona, Fri., Aug. 18, 1995

Considering the fact that there are well-documented cases of near-infants being called upon to rescue helpless adults from the clutches of unprogrammable VCRs and terrifying screen messages like “general program protection fault,” it stands to reason that the latest re-telling of Mark Twain's classic A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court would be a Disney effort with a kid in the title role. Modern-day dweeb Calvin Fuller drops out of the dugout (literally) and back in time about 1,600 years. It seems that Arthur's Camelot has fallen on hard times, its elderly king duped by the conniving Lord Belasco. Merlin, now a ghostly, discombobulated head floating in a magic well, misfires in his attempt to stop the knight in tarnished armor, bringing the gawky no-hitter in to save the kingdom. Not that Calvin is totally unprepared. His backpack is full of wondrous 20th-century treasures -- superglue, a CD player, rollerblades, and Mad Dog chewing gum. But, as it turns out, this kid is no MacGyver, his use of high-tech ingenuity to enlighten the Dark Agers surprisingly restrained. Instead, the movie equips its unlikely champion with age-old, singularly human attributes such as courage and honor and love. Nichols essentially reprises his Rookie of the Year role as a less-than-stellar baseball player whose life is changed by an extraordinary turn of events. Despite a goofy hairdo and a voice that cracks as often as my office mate's gum, he still shines as the charmingly ordinary hero. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of his current vehicle. Even with Nichols, decent production values, a pair of plucky princesses, and a few pleasant surprises tucked in here and there, A Kid in King Arthur's Court is a pretty prosaic picture. There are simply not enough sparks here to fire the imagination. While its cool, cavernous castle scenes offer a pleasant afternoon respite from the August heat, this version of the fabled kingdom is not the stuff of which legends are made.

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