‘Arthur the King’ tells wholesome story about companionship

If you know me, you know that dogs are in my psychological pyramid of needs. They are arguably one of the best creatures on earth, but this is not a debate. It’s a review of Simon Cellan Jones’ new action/adventure film “Arthur the King.”

As a kid, the 2008 comedy “Marley & Me” destroyed me. “Hachi: A Dog’s Tale,” the 2010 drama, left me in pieces. I knew “Arthur the King” was bound to make me cry, but I did not prepare for how much that would be.

The movie, based on the 2016 memoir “Arthur: The Dog Who Crossed the Jungle to Find a Home” by Mikael Lindnord, stars Mark Wahlberg as the dedicated adventure racer seeking a career redemption.

After not even finishing the previous race with his old team, Michael (Wahlberg) fights for a second chance at victory with a brand new one. Consisting of Leo, Olivia and Chik, played by Simu Liu, Nathalie Emmanuel and Ali Suliman respectively, the group travels to the capital of the Dominican Republic to compete. With challenges involving navigating, climbing, biking and kayaking, they are in for a grueling five-day escapade.

Along the way, Michael befriends a stray dog — by feeding him meatballs — who helps them through the jungle and even saves their lives at one point. He names the Australian shepherd/border collie/bouvier mix ‘Arthur the King,’ and Arthur accompanies the team on the rest of their journey. 

Wahlberg’s portrayal of a man desperate to win who then finds an unusual yet rewarding companionship is wonderful. It was lovely to watch the pair grow closer throughout the film.

However, Arthur does not come into the picture until about halfway through, and that first half was honestly brutal. The script was almost comedic with how dull it was.

Michael’s relationship with his wife and child are barely expanded upon, and their interactions are short and confusing. A lot of their scenes together are kind of awkward, as well as with Olivia. At a certain point in the film, she drops a bomb of information on her teammates, which feels super unnecessary considering it was never mentioned again. 

The camera work was nothing spectacular either. They incorporated shakes into the cinematography, I guess to give a more ‘real’ feel to it, but I was not a fan. It felt cheap. The setting was beautiful though, with scenes of never-ending lush green jungle and the rolling hills of Colorado. Nevertheless, nature is not a factor in camera work.

Although the majority of the film takes place in the Dominican Republic and Colorado, there were several jumping points with captions on screen that were a real disconnect. I’m not sure how I would have told the story as I haven’t read the book, but cutting from Colorado to Costa Rica to Los Angeles was a bit much.

I will say, however, that the scenes of Arthur were delightful. Not only due to how beautiful Ukai the dog actor is, but because Jones knew how to make us love him. I was consistently rooting for Arthur to prevail, and in moments of intensity, my eyes were entirely filled with tears. Two things I can confidently say this movie did well with was its action and tension.  

With themes of love, companionship, courage and determination, it was very wholesome. For a movie about a stray dog that joins an adventure race, it was pretty good. Although it was not “Dune: Part Two” good or something I’d absolutely rave about, I still very much enjoyed watching it and will more than likely read the real story. 

Two paws up from me.


3/5 stars




Featured photo courtesy of @mikaelindnord, Instagram