Cornish’s family adventure film can be entertaining and is flawlessly produced, though it almost lands on the wrong side of the fence in terms of the fun by taking itself a bit too seriously.
Joe Cornish’s newest film is a throwback to family adventure movies that are entertaining, funny, and have a message of the importance of family above all. It hits most of the sweet spots without talking down to its audience or dumbing it down because it doesn’t trust that they will get the message unless it hits them in the face. The Kid Who Would Be King also uses the kids as the parent character in the plot, teaching their surrogates about life, instead of vice-versa.
The film takes a contemporary spin on the classic tale of King Arthur pulling out the Excalibur sword by introducing him as a young hero Alex, played by the adorable rosy-cheeked Louis Ashbourne Serkis (yes, son of the great Andy Serkis). Alex is a noble chap who stands up to a couple of bullies (played by Doctor Foster’s Tom Taylor and Stage School’s Rhianna Dorris) who have been sitting on fellow classmates Bedder’s back (newcomer Dean Chaumoo), taunting him as they do. He befriends him and comes along for the ride when Alex stumbles upon the mythical weapon that will change his life forever. But first, he unites his newfound friend and the two tormentors to keep the sword, save the world, and get back by dinner so they can finish their homework.
One of the more entertaining subplots of the film is that Alex and company receive help from the legendary character of Merlin. The medieval wizard shows up as a new kid in school as “young” Merlin, played by The Archer’s Angus Imrie, who can then transform into “old” Merlin (Patrick Stewart, reveling in the role), and offers most of the film’s comic relief. Merlin helps the guide them in the right direction to stand up against Morgana (Rebecca Ferguson), an evil battle-ax who wants to destroy Merlin, Arthur, and pretty much all of Camelot.
The Kid Who Would Be King is well done, looks flawlessly produced, and hits the right notes of most family adventure films. The action scenes go for a junior Lord of the Rings-type feel but have been watered down without being too graphic for its intended target audience. While The Kid Who Would Be King ultimately wins you over with its retro throwback intentions, the film’s child characters take themselves a bit too seriously and aren’t allowed to just act like kids, even in the non-action sequences. This can make Cornish’s film feels like its on the fence when it comes to the fun, almost falling over on the side of dull. Still, it’s a film parents should feel good about taking their kids to.
M.N. Miller has been a film and television writer for Ready Steady Cut since August of 2018 and is patiently waiting for the next Pearl Jam album to come out.