20th CENTURY FOX (2019)
Director: Joe Cornish
Starring: Louis Ashbourne Serkis, Tom Taylor, Rebecca Ferguson, Angus Imrie, Patrick Stewart, Dean Chaumoo, Rhianna Doris, Denise Gough, Genevieve O'Reilly
The worn–out legend of Arthur.
Attack the Block director Joe Cornish returns to the director’s chair with the not-15 rated The Kid Who Would Be King, a story about a kid who would be king. More to the point, it follows young Alex, who upon finding King Arthur’s famous sword, Excalibur, is thrust into a battle alongside his schoolmates against a supernatural enchantress and her horde of flaming lackeys who have craved the sword for decades. A nice subversion on the story that was besmirched nearly beyond repair in 2004’s King Arthur and 2017’s ghastly King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.
The historic story itself is the inspiration for The Kid Who Would Be King, however, doesn’t provide the full blueprint for the narrative. Thankfully, the story is subverted along the way saving us from another rehash of the same old story. Firstly, King Arthur wasn’t a pre-teen which is a fairly major change. Secondly, this movie is set in contemporary times – and isn't a gritty, mockney slogfest. The third act allows the story to deviate off the beaten track, however, the main issue is the movie that proceeded it is too long and not entirely exciting either. Some extra editing and trimming of, say, twenty minutes would really have benefitted the movie overall and prevented the lulls that occurred throughout. As for the performances, the kids are…alright. Andy’s boy Louis is OK in the lead role, never really convincing as the hero or the naïve youngster whereas Angus Imrie is marvellous as young Merlin, full of quirks and an extremely watchable wizard act (Patrick Stewart portrays ‘old’ Merlin with relish, too). Rebecca Ferguson feels a bit wasted and the remaining kids are…alright. It’s worth remembering that Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone had some extremely iffy, wooden young performances and those guys haven’t done too badly, I suppose. The writing is just fine and some of the action set pieces are good for the PG rating – the marketing did make this look more like a school rebellion rather than a few kids setting off together and I think I would have preferred the hi-jinks that the trailer offered. An emotional subplot between Alex, his mother (a very solid Denise Gough) and his absent father doesn’t really hit the mark as well as it was intended and the emotional weight throughout is lacking.
Tintagel is captured in all its beauty – it wasn’t until watching scenes of Alex walking through the main high street that I recalled having been there myself a good few years ago. It’s a great place to visit if you’re ever in the UK (not sponsored by the Cornish Tourist Board…other towns are available) but I have to say, England itself doesn’t look that appealing from its appearance here. Looks a bit dingy and dull, which isn’t indicative of this marvellous island. The graphics/effects, for the most part, are pretty decent though I would say that Rebecca Ferguson’s evil Morgana and her various guises might be a tad scary for the very young children who watch.
For a fun adventure romp for the youngsters, The Kid Who Would Be King works on many levels. Dig a little deeper and the flaws/negatives are fairly clear, unfortunately. Had that twenty minutes been sheared off, the narrative may have been tighter, allowing for the stronger aspects of the movie to shine through. However, that’s not the case. As it is, The Kid Who Would Be King is an adequate flick that never really picks up any real traction, it just remains consistently decent throughout.
January 30th 2019