James C. Clay // Film Critic
THE KID WHO WOULD BE KING
A film as charming and indelible as THE KID WHO WOULD BE KING should have had more eyeballs pointed in its direction. Joe Cornish, who gave John Boyega his claim to fame in ATTACK THE BLOCK before the STAR WARS sequel-trilogy, is in touch with a sense of adventure unlike many storytellers working in feature films today. The project provides a much-needed shot in the arm of kid-centered adventures that were so popular in the 1980s and 90s. Despite Cornish’s ability to modernize the gravely dull Arthurian legend, also known as THE SWORD AND THE STONE, the film needs a bit of work. At two hours, the film is overlong and suffers from a third-act of CGI overload. However, this is a joyous film that’s perfect for home viewing.
The film follows a British schoolboy Alex (Louis Serkis), who’s about as average as they come, but he has a nobility to his demeanor that shows one day as he rescues a local schoolmate, Bedders (newcomer Dean Chaumoo) from bullies Lance (Tom Taylor) and Kaye (Rihanna Dorris). He spends his homelife focusing on the origin of his father, who left his mother Mary (Denise Gough) some time ago.
Alex’s story follows the typical heroes journey template that we’ve seen before, yet Cornish adds his own brand of sweetness to it, that at times becomes a bit too cutesy and overbearing. It’s all just a matter of taste, but I know I don’t find humor in making references to Mario Cart, Luke Skywalker and GAME OF THRONES. It comes across as a tad lazy, which is shocking for a film that’s bursting with life.
THE KID WHO WOULD BE KING finds many clever ways to pepper in the legend of King Arthur while still telling its own original story. They take liberties with the persona of Merlin, who is portrayed by two actors younger (Angus Imrie) and older (Sir Patrick Stewart), with Imrie taking the lion’s share of the screen time. Imrie is so good treating Merlin as a person who is operating at a higher and weirder frame of existence than the young squires who are under his tutelage. With a sneeze that transforms him into an owl, and some whirly bird hand motions, he brings the legendary wizard to life, and Stewart is pretty much just on-screen for geekdom credibility.
The story certainly doesn’t falter to its casting as the motley crew of preteens have wonderful chemistry and they dynamics feel organic to the story being told. Also, not that every film has to have a message, but Cornish works in some beautiful wisdom that can help adolescents conquer their school yard fears; it’s sensitive and well intentioned.
This is a film that wears its heart on its sleeve, and bless it for that. Lurking throughout the film is a villain plot that is a lame afterthought in comparison to the dynamics. As Alex and his knights are on their quest, located below is an ancient evil named Morgana (Rebecca Ferguson), who is plotting to take the sword back and claim the thrown for herself – it’s painfully forgettable.
THE KID WHO WOULD BE KING suffers, at times, from losing the magic in service of the plot, but Joe Cornish makes a film so delightful that it’s difficult to deny. Welcome to every 12 years old’s new favorite movie.
SELECTED SPECIAL FEATURES:
- Origin of a King: A story of how Louis Serkis and filmmaker Joe Cornish came to be collaborators. *Spoiler Alert* It probably had something to do with Serkis’ legendary father, Andy Serkis.
- Young Knights: Meet the endearing cast of the film. These features are all largely entertaining and give you a real glimpse into how the film was made.
- Knight School: There’s a set piece in the film where whomping trees teach the young knights how to sword fight, and this feature shows you that acting is actually, kinda hard work.
- The Two Merlins: Watch two Merlins duel for the ultimate supremacy. Actually, it’s mainly 12 minutes of people gushing over Patrick Stewart.
- Meeting Morgana: Rebecca Ferguson is a solid actor, but thank you… next!
- Movie Magic: Yep, there are definitely CGI effects in this movie. I think you get the idea.