Saturday, April 20, 2019

The Kid Who Would Be KIng


The Arthurian legend, reworked for modern pre-teens, rife with charming messages of chivalry, understanding and forgiveness, moral codes, and standing up against the forces of evil! A classic kid's movie in that it's made with kids purely in mind, yet made well and smartly enough that adults will get a good kick out of it, too.

Written and directed by Joe Cornish.

The new king is Alex, played by the son of Andy Serkis, Louis Ashbourne Serkis. Alex is a bit of a nerd but has a clear nobility and desire to do right, and Louis is comfortable on screen, playing both the drama and the comedy with engaging skill. His fellows are Dean Chaumoo as Bedders his best friend -- and Rhianna Dorris as Kaye and Tom Taylor (of The Dark Tower) as Lance, who are the school bullies to start out. One of my favorite aspects of the movie was how they joined sides and had to learn to work together despite their long past of dislike and cruelty. While most films glorify retribution against bullies, this one sees them as humans with their own hurts, in need of a little grace and patience.

Also on the good side, and there to guide the children, is the wizard Merlin, played by two. Patrick Stewart takes him on from time to time to use his gravitas and wise-sounding voice to get across a particularly dramatic moment, but most of the time he is played by Angus Imrie when he takes teenage form. This guy is the more characterized version of the character, and is, to be perfectly honest, my absolute favorite thing about the movie altogether. His quirky appearance and energetic persona are wonderfully otherworldly and hilarious, he gets all the scene-stealing laugh-lines, and the hand motions he does to do magic is brilliant. (Doctor Strange eat your heart out!) Oh, and he sneezes to turn into an owl.

As much as I like him, I think it would've been better off if Patrick Stewart hadn't been there at all. 

The threat comes from villainess Morgana played in whispering dramatics by the lovely Rebecca Ferguson. She does her best to chew scenery, but ultimately doesn't have enough physical screen time to make a real impression as a character. But the threat she poses is enough, and her fiery army of undead skeletons that attack nightly are more than enough to keep up excitement. They're CGI, and passable in design, but the real great aspect of their appearances is the clever sequences designed around them. There's no possibility of epic hand to hand combat since the heroes are normal kids played by kids, so instead there are genuinely thought-out sequences with smart solutions to the attacks.

Also impressively smart is the script as a whole. The humor isn't rude or cheap for kiddie's laughs or overly fabricated. There are funny situations and not everything is forced into being a joke. This natural humor slides effortlessly in and out with the drama which is catered to be engaging and sympathetic to the younger crowd. (For me, I merely enjoyed it, not feeling much personal connection.) The plot takes some directions that I didn't expect, but always seemed to go in the most exciting direction. It hits classic storytelling beats, keeps the fun going at pace, and ends up climatically.

It gives off classic adventure vibes, like the fodder of my childhood.

It reminds me of a good and successful version of A Wrinkle In Time -- except in fantasy adventure instead of scifi adventure. But where AWIT was so bogged down in teachable moments that it never took a single step off the ground, The Kid Who Would be King soars in adventuresome glee. It has fun telling a classic story, and teaches some great, universal lessons along the way too. And though it wouldn't be at all a pain for most adults to sit through, it's not a movie for adults. I don't have anything bad to say about it, because I think it was what it wanted to be -- and wanted to be what it should have been. But it's for me ten to fifteen years ago, not now.

Now all I can hope is that the kids who would fall for it today get a chance to see it and take its unifying themes to heart as they enjoy the questful ride. Actually, there is one reaction I would've had back in the day that I still had -- I desperately want to learn how to do Merlin's Magic Hand Choreography!


  1. This is a wonderful children's film. If I was younger, I would have hyped this up so much as I'm a big fan of the Arthurian legend. Angus Imrie was such a highlight of the film. Great review!

    1. Agreed, and I would have too, though I'm more of a fantasy in general kind of fan. I second that, too! Thank you!