Hollywood dog movies go back over a century, starting with Rin-Tin-Tin’s The Man from Hell’s River. Since then, some classics have included Lassie Come Home (1943), Old Yeller (1957), and The Incredible Journey (1963).

Now be prepared to add another tale to the list of superb films about man’s best friend and the bond that can form between them and humans.

Arthur the King has nothing to do with the mythological king of Britain. Rather, it’s about a dog — and friendship, resilience, and companionship.

The story is based on a gripping 2017 true-life adventure book called Arthur: The Dog Who Crossed the Jungle to Find a Home by Swedish extreme athlete and author Mikael Lindnord.

Lindnord is portrayed in the film by Mark Walberg (Boogie Nights). In addition to Walberg — he’s named Michael Light here — two primary co-stars include Simu Liu (Barbie) and Nathalie Emmanuel (Game of Thrones).

The story centers around Light as a seasoned professional athlete on the brink of retirement. He is gearing up for one final challenge by striving to win the Adventure Racing World Championship in the Dominican Republic.

This soul-crushing, 10-day event involves 435 miles of mountain climbing, biking, and kayaking. As his team’s captain, Light struggles with challenges both physical and personal.

One day, when the group is resting, a scraggly, injured mutt limps into their camp. Light offers the emaciated creature a meatball, and a powerful bond forms that will change both of their lives.

The team meets the same stray canine hundreds of miles later. The second time fate brings them together, the dog saves Light’s life by barking at him just as he’s about to step off the edge of a steep cliff.

“Extra meatballs for you, my friend,” he tells him.

Light’s fellow competitors initially see the creature as a nuisance but come to love him and eventually adopt him as the team mascot, as he displays as much heart as any of the adventurers.

Later on, as Light and the mutt slog their way through a swamp together, he proclaims, “He’s the king … I think we should call him Arthur … Arthur the King.”

In real life, author Lindnord took Arthur home following his arduous adventure. He said later, “Arthur’s beautiful soul touched many people, and for us in the family he was the best family member you could dream about.”

Prolific TV director Simon Cellan Jones and scriptwriter Michael Brandt (3:10 to Yuma) helped to bring Arthur’s story to fruition.

The Lionsgate PG-13 release of Arthur the King opens in theaters on March 22.


Randal C. Hill enjoys getting sneak peeks of forthcoming movies from his home on the Oregon coast. He can be reached at wryterhill@msn.com.

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