The Kid Who Would Be King
There was nothing like a warm day playing outside when I was little and finding that special stick. I never knew how such an incredible object could be right there waiting for me to turn it into whatever my imagination could conjure up. Smooth, not full of flaking pieces of bark coming off. I would craftily take off the small twigs and branches to get it to that perfect shape to be effective and opposing. That stick would be a sword, a staff, a scepter, a lance; whatever my heart desired. It would either be the instrument to help me slay my advisories or sometimes betray my allies.
Gosh; those were much simpler times. Joe Cornish’s “The Kid Who Would Be King” (TKWWBK) transports you back to where wonderment and adventure was paramount in your life. TKWWBK follows Alex (Louis Ashbourne Serkis) a 12year old boy dealing with everyday middle school life, stumbling upon the fabled Sword in the Stone, Excalibur. Realizing that this new finding is not only real but brings real magical threats, he must band together his friends and even his enemies to stop the Evil Enchantress Morgana (Rebecca Ferguson) from taking over the world.
The plot is straight forward, and that’s what makes this movie really work. We have a clear and present danger, an immediate time clock, and an achievable goal. Being a child of the 80’s but growing up as a 90’s kid I called back everything I loved most about the kid/ Adventure genre. There’s an easy path for our protagonist to get fropm A to B to C and we were all in for it. “E.T,” “Goonies,” “Hook.” Simple stories tackling important themes that were familiar and being immersed into a huge world so different from what you know. Being able to feel a part of something so different than what you experience day to day.
TKWWBK even acknowledges a lot of those similarities in a conversation between Alex and his best friend Bedders (Dean Chaumoo) where Alex is explaining how Harry Potter and Luke Skywalker didn’t have fathers like himself and found out they were a part of a magical lineage and destined for greatness. It’s that realization that helps propel Alex in this story to accept the quest he has been given to prepare and defeat Morgana before it’s too late.
Cornish does it again striking gold and getting some stellar performances out of these young and relatively unknown group of actors. Well, aside from Serkis as he is Andy’s kid. It’s been 8 years since Cornish in my opinion broke out with the Cult Hit “Attack the Block” which also boasted a group of talented young actors working well together. TKWWBK has a crop of young performers oozing charisma and whit. Featured heavily in the preceding trailers were the 2 school bullies of Lance and Kaye ( Tom Taylor, Rhianna Dorris) who have a great turn in this movie not just playing surface level stereotypes we all remember growing up with in some of the 80’s and 90’s classics, but kids mis understood, and feeling not good enough so they worked to make others feel the same. What’s even greater is the subtle yet powerful way Alex was able to teach them a lesson without it being contrived or inauthentic to the story.
However, the Standout performances have got to be the dual takes on Merlin (Angus Imrie, Sir Patrick Stewart). The much-needed comic relief is championed by young and old Merlin fumbling around and awkwardly adjusting to life as a teen imbued with great power but unable to hold it together without sugar, fast food, and soda. What an awesome plot device. Merlin must have troubling sinuses as a mere sneeze transforms him unwillingly between young man, owl, and good old Patrick Stewart. There’s such a smooth wisdom and delight to see Stewart aid these young knights on their quest yet not overshadow their journey. That really speaks to the care that was taken in Cornish’s take on this modern-day retelling of the King Arthur Tale that allows the characters to find the answers on their own and not wait for an adult to spoon feed it to them. It’s even more apparent as Young Merlin with some intricate hand magic comedically manipulates the behaviors of the adults in the story.
I will say the adult actors aside from Stewart and Ferguson’s portrayal of Morgana are nothing special. Not that they were bad, but just didn’t have many stand outs moments. Ferguson played a lot with her voice that was believe able and spooky. The visual effects in the film were decent despite the movies modest budget and that leaves room for improvement technically. There were some sound issues through out that felt out of place by either in production constraints or post production errors. A lot of the action which the movie has plenty of felt muffled like I was watching a scene and covering my ears. A lot of the bigger moments were hurt by those details that were missed out.
Additionally, the tone while I think worked most of the time could have been improved if TKWWBK didn’t take its self-100% seriously. Those classics that I referred to early like, “The Never-Ending Story” or “Pagemaster” played in their world and did so with more comedy which lends to having the younger members of the family that go to theater enjoy things a bit more. This is all fantasy and it would’ve been great to see Cornish have a little bit more yucks amongst the kids and the situation; but I’m really picking nits here. Although I took my 6-year-old to the screening with me and could tell where her attention was in and out.
The Kid Who would be king is a fun for everyone contemporary retelling of the classic Arthurian Tale that teaches its movie goers the importance of friendship, family, and future. We don’t have to descend from great monarchs or noble families. We must be willing to stand up for what’s right and for those who can’t stand up for themselves. Get out to your local theater, bring the whole family and remember the kid in you from the good old days, and watch how they cheer for this film in a refreshing way!
KOLBYTOLDME RATING- 8/10
Director: Joe Cornish
Writer: Joe Cornish
Starring: Louis Ashbourne Serkis, Dean Chaumoo, Tom Taylor, Rhianna Dorris, Angus Imrie, Rebecca Ferguson, Sir. Patrick Stewart
Run Time: 120 mins