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‘A Kid in King Arthur’s Court’ (PG)

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
August 11, 1995

When Calvin Fuller (Thomas Ian Nicholas) steps up to the plate in a Little League game at the beginning of Walt Disney's pallid "A Kid in King Arthur's Court," he can't even work up the nerve to take a swing. So you can understand the disappointment that the sorcerer Merlin (Ron Moody) feels when he casts a spell summoning a knight to cure the ills of the kingdom and Calvin shows up.

Adapted loosely by writer-producer Robert L. Levy and Michael Part from Mark Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court," the movie travels back—by means of a catastrophic earthquake—to a Camelot in big trouble. The problem is that King Arthur (Joss Ackland) has lost contact with the people. The knights of the Round Table have dispersed, leaving the evil Lord Belasco (Art Malik) to run the kingdom. And if Calvin can't figure out a way to spoil Belasco's plans, the villain will win the hand of the king's daughter and rule without opposition.

The tools that the sheepish Calvin employs to bring about the defeat of the king's enemies are only those that he has brought with him from Southern California, namely, a Walkman, a few classes worth of karate and a modern boy's ingenuity. He also uses other anachronistic devices to baffle his foes—a makeshift pair of in-line skates and a bike, for example. Unfortunately, few of these wrinkles come as much of a surprise. And because of the square, lackluster way that director Michael Gottleib has staged his material, the whole production seems sort of limp and perfunctory.

As the eponymous "Kid," Nicholas has a charmingly low-key presence; he's like a younger, less antic Patrick Dempsey. As Calvin's romantic interest, Paloma Baeza proves herself to be a lovely young actress (the role of a princess allows for some of the prissiness in her line readings). Malik has a few skanky moments as the bad guy, and Kate Winslet ("Heavenly Creatures") provides the movie with its only real surprise. As for Ackland, he looks as if he is there strictly for lunch.

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