The Kid Who Would Be King is directed by Joe Cornish. The film stars Louis Ashbourne Serkis, Tom Taylor, Rebecca Fercuson, Angus Imrie, Patrick Stewart, Dean Chaumoo, Rhianna Doris, Denise Gough, and Genevieve O’Reilly.
Centuries ago, King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, largely comprised of his former foes, took on and defeated the evil Morgana, vanquishing her from the face of the Earth, only to have her swear her return. In the modern day, young Alex and his best friend Bedders are regularly bullied at school, but their lives are forever changed when Alex finds Excalibur embedded in a stone in a local construction site. Merlin the wizard appears in the modern day to serve as a guide to Alex, encouraging him to set out on a quest, befriending his former enemies, and putting a stop to Morgana’s plans for a return. But will the timid young Alex have what it takes to triumph? And will his newfound allies share his passion and be up for the task!
Modernized takes on the Arthurian legend and mythology are nothing new. When I was a child, cartoons like King Arthur and the Knights of Justice attempted to put a modern spin on these age-old tales, and it’s not surprising to see a new film take a crack at these legends in the present day as well. The Kid Who Would be King isn’t a perfect film, from an overlong running time with an unnecessary over-the-top third act. However, along the way, it mostly satisfies thanks to a talented and diverse young cast, likable characters, and a delightfully retro feel.
Where The Kid Who Would Be King deserves the most credit is in its casting. These are mostly lesser-known actors with the exception of Patrick Stewart, and I’m glad to see the film doesn’t let him upstage or steal time away from the less experienced younger cast members. The lead, Alex, is played by Louis Ashbourne Serkis (son of motion capture pioneer/actor Andy Serkis), who brings an innocence and vulnerability to the character which makes him all the more likable. Fellow modern-day bullies turned heroes played by Tom Taylor and Rhianna Doris, start off as detestable and unsympathetic, yet they to become more likable and appealing as this journey carries on towards its inevitable finale.
The true standout member of the cast, though, is Angus Imrie, who plays the wizard Merlin, disguising himself in a younger body to blend in while attending Alex’s school to serve as something of an advisor and to watch over him, guiding him on the quest to come. Seeing Imrie speak in medieval dialect with the ridicule of modern-day school students loom over his head is worth the price of admission alone. The scenes with him interacting with today’s youths and school staff are, hands down, the best thing about this film. This character totally deserves a spin-off film. Patrick Stewart plays the elderly version of the character who is seldom seen in the movie.
The film is rated PG, containing some scary and intense moments, but it’s nothing your kids can’t handle. If they’ve watched any Marvel movies, this is downright tame by comparison. With the witty verbal humor and fun-filled action scenes involving modern-day youths fighting the forces of medieval evils, there’s enough here to appeal to most audiences. It’s one of the better movies to combine the modern world with Arthurian legend, with surprisingly strong pacing for most of the film. It's also nice to see a family-oriented film which doesn't fall back on toilet humor and cheap laughs.
Things can’t be perfect, though. The biggest problem with the movie is the final act, which feels like a tacked-on action-packed CGI finale which is largely unnecessary, and well after what could be considered the end of the “hero’s journey.” Morgana, while certainly a fearsome villain, does come across as somewhat one-dimensional and underdeveloped. It’s a bit predictable in places, as well, but this only helps to reaffirm the “retro feel” many audiences have already found so appealing.
Kids and adults alike should enjoy The Kid Who Would Be King, despite its bloated and unnecessary final act. It’s a great blend of action, adventure, drama, friendship, and plenty of elements which should appeal to young and old alike. Definitely recommended.
Rating: Three stars out of four.
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