The Kid Who Would Be King (2019) ☆☆☆(3/4): Their little Arthurian adventure

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“The Kid Who Would Be King” is a little fantasy adventure movie willingly and unabashedly going for unadulterated fun and excitement. Although it is rather familiar and predictable as a modern variation of the Arthurian legend, the movie lively and humorously gallops from one expected narrative point to another along with its young main characters, and I found myself frequently amused during my viewing even though the cranky part of my mind went back to “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” (1975) from time to time.

After the prologue animation sequence presenting the Arthurian legend as expected, we meet a 12-year-old boy named Alexander “Alex” Elliot (Louis Ashbourne Serkis), who is going through some difficulties as beginning the new term at his school. While he has felt very unhappy about his father’s longtime absence, Alex and his best friend Bedders (Dean Chaumoo) have been frequently bullied by two other students named Lance (Tom Taylor) and Kaye (Rhianna Dorris), but he does not tell anything about that to his concerned mother, even after he comes to a have a big schoolyard fight with Lance on one day when he sees Lance and Keye bullying Bedders.

When he later happens to be chased by Lance and Kaye, Alex sneaks into a local construction site, and then he comes to discover a mysterious sword there. Of course, that sword turns out to be none other than that famous one which once belonged to King Arthur, and it does not take much time for Alex to realize how serious the situation is. King Arthur’s evil half-sister Morgana (Rebecca Ferguson), who has been held below the ground for several thousand years, is quite determined to get the sword and then take over England as the world has been quite gloomy and unstable during last several decades, and Alex is soon visited by one of her zombie minions.

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Fortunately, there also comes a good guardian for Alex, and he is an old wizard named Merlin (Angus Imrie), who actually looks quite young due to aging backward like “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (2008). Although it takes some time for him to adjust himself to the modern world, Merlin quickly approaches to Alex and Bedders, and that leads to a series of silly but amusing moments including Alex and Bedders’ private meeting with Merlin at a fast food shop which happens to sell everything Merlin needs for recharging his magical power.

Anyway, after Merlin tells them that they need more allies for fighting against Morgana, Alex and Bedders come to recruit two unlikely allies: Lance and Kaye. They do not believe Alex and Bedders’ words at first, but then they soon find themselves chased by Morgana’s zombie minions just like Alex and Bedders, and they subsequently come to join Alex and Bedders’s journey to a certain place which may lead them to Morgana’s underground lair.

Balanced well between comedy and drama, the screenplay by director/writer Joe Cornish steadily doles out nice individual moments as rolling its young main characters along its conventional but engaging plot. While often humorously recognizing the silly aspects of its story, it is also serious enough about how its young main characters overcome their respective weaknesses and stick together in front of the enormous evil, and it accordingly delivers some nice messages on the importance of friendship and solidarity, which will resonate well with young audiences in my inconsequential opinion.

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The movie also delivers several competent action sequences as required, and it does not disappoint us when it eventually arrives at the climatic part unfolded during a certain planetary happening. Although this part looks a lot more modest compared to “Avengers: Endgame” (2019), it is handled with more spirit and creativity, and I particularly like how a bunch of vehicles are cleverly used against those zombie soldiers at one point.

The main cast members of the movie are solid on the whole. While Louis Ashbourne Serkis, who is the son of Andy Serkis, holds the center with his earnest performance, Dean Cahumoo complements Serkis well with his many small funny moments, and Tom Taylor and Rhianna Dorris are equally effective in their respective roles. Thanks to the effortless rapport among these young performers, the movie seldom loses its spirited sense of fun and excitement, and they are also supported well by the other main cast members including Rebecca Ferguson, Denise Gough, Genevieve O’Reilly, Patrick Stewart, and Angus Imrie, who surely has a lot of fun with his colorful supporting role.

“The Kid Who Would Be King” is the second feature film directed by Cornish, who previously made a debut with “Attack the Block” (2011). Compared to that small but entertaining SF action thriller film which has gained a cult status during last several years, the movie is a little less satisfying due to several flaws including the uneven plot progress during its third act, but it is still an enjoyable movie packed with enough good things to be appreciated, and Cornish confirms here that he is indeed a major talent to watch. Things look quite uncertain for his filmmaking career at present because the movie miserably failed at the US box office despite lots of positive responses from critics, but I sincerely hope that there will soon be another chance for him, though I am now feeling an urge to revisit “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”.

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