Let’s get this out of the way. The Kid Who Would Be King is good. It’s better than good. It’s great. Its a charming, funny, thoughtful movie for and about our times. But it’s not doing well at the box office. And you should see it. Let’s talk about it.
The Kid Who Would Be King Review
Tale as Old as Time
The Kid Who Would Be King is obsessed with myth. As a people, we have always loved stories about good vs evil. Its been that way since the invention of fire and probably before. One lone figure, a youthful optimist, rising up against a large, indifferent, and sometimes malevolent world. In the 2000’s, we had Harry Potter and the rise of the superhero film. In the 70s and 80s, we had Luke Skywalker. And before that, we had Arthur: King of the Britains, wielder of Excalibur, and leader of the Knights of the Round Table. But that was during the Dark Ages. Today, we’re facing something even darker.
The Kid Who Would Be King tells the tale of Alex (Louis Ashbourne Serkis), a twelve-year-old boy in modern day England. Raised by a single, struggling, but well-meaning mother (dad ran out), Alex finds himself overwhelmed by the mere existence of the world around him. And how could he not? He is just a kid, and a sort of stodgy one. People call him “lego minifig,” his only friend is a pudgy little wimp named Bedders, and the country is falling apart amidst the Brexit calamity. On top of that, Alex and Bedders are the new kids at the school. Red meat for the local bullies, Lance and Kaye.
Fleeing the bullies after school, Alex hides in a demolition site, where, in a broken down column, he finds a medieval sword. Alex does what any boy would do and gives the sword a mighty tug, and wouldn’t you know it, the sword comes loose from the stone!
After checking a book of Arthurian Legend left to him by his father, and with a little help transcribing the engraved Latin into Google Translate, Alex and Bedders discover that this is literally The Sword In The Stone, Excalibur, meaning Alex is the one true King.
But the rise of a Hero always comes with the rise of an Evil, in this case, an ancient Evil buried deep below the Earth: Arthur’s half-sister Morgana is waking from her slumber and plotting her return. In four days time during a solar eclipse, she will return with her armies of fire and enslave the earth unless Alex can stop her in between classes.
Luckily, Alex and Bedders are not alone, as Excalibur has also awoken Merlin. Yes, the Merlin, who has “ingeniously” disguised himself as a teenage boy, played by Patrick Stewart as an old man, Angus Imrie as a young man, and sometimes as an Owl. Why he jumps back and forth is never fully explained. There’s a lot in this movie that is never fully explained, but that’s all part of the fun.
Knighting his former enemies, Lance and Kaye, as well as Bedders, (Lancelot, Kay, and Bedivere, get it?), Alex and company must train to become noble and true warriors of the realm to defeat Morgana in the immediate future and possibly save the UK in the not-too-distant future.
The Return of the King
The Kid Who Would Be King is a high-concept action, comedy, fantasy film, the kind that Hollywood doesn’t make much anymore unless it gets to be animated and star Anna Kendrick or Chris Pratt. That alone makes it worthy of your consideration, but The Kid Who Would Be King has another Ace up it’s sleeve: the directorial follow-up of Joe Cornish.
For the uninitiated, Joe Cornish is the co-writer of Steven Spielberg‘s The Adventures of Tintin and the Edgar Wright drafts of Ant-Man, but he also wrote and directed the 2011 sleeper hit Monsterpiece Attack the Block.
Attack the Block is about a group of British street thugs who run afoul of a massive alien beast and must kill it by any means necessary, be it baseball bat or firecracker. It gave the world John Boyega pre-Star Wars, and Jodie Whittaker pre-Doctor Who. It has a banging soundtrack and the best darn creature design since Alien. Its also just about as cool as cool can be.
And for eight long years, we devoted fans have awaited Cornish’s return to the big screen. While he was offered the director’s chair for films like Star Trek Beyond, he turned them down, determined to make a film that was entirely his own. And he has succeeded.
The Kid Who Would Be King plays in softer fare, but it’s still clearly the work of the same writer/director. Cornish has a keen awareness of the current generation, along with the way they talk, the way they use technology, and most importantly, the way they view the world. There is a certain level of cynicism in the water today, and Cornish takes great care to observe that it is a phase we as a society are going to have to get over if we are going to survive.
In these Dark Times, we need a little sincerity.
Things I Like…
I have no room for criticism in this movie. Anyone who says it’s too happy or too heartfelt or “corny” (the worst word of all time), can go hang. This movie has charm for days and certainly cast a spell on me.
I won’t say it’s perfect. I think Morgana could be more menacing. The second act dips a little and a few of the kids in my theater got a little restless, but once the climax hits and the kids turn their school into a fortress clad in shining armor and eclipse goggles fighting fire demons on horseback, the movie shifts into full-on kick-ass rock mode and dares you to think differently.
The Kids all rise to the task, and Louis Ashbourne Serkis (son of Gollum himself, Andy Serkis), proves to be an actor beyond his years. But the real star of the movie is Angus Imrie as the young Merlin whose hand magic rivals Doctor Strange. I couldn’t get enough of this kid. He’s a broad note played often, but it’s a note that brought a smile to my face.
Last Word On The Kid Who Would Be King
The Kid Who Would Be King is a movie you’re going to regret not seeing in theaters. You’re going to “discover it” whenever it comes on Netflix or Hulu or whatever and you’re going to tell all your friends about it. You’re going to be amazed that this movie exists and you’re going to lament that they don’t make more movies like it.
Or you could see it now and maybe they will.
The Kid Who Would Be King rules. It rules like it’s its birthright.
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