The Movie Guru: ‘The Kid Who Would Be King’ a fantastic, inspirational adventure
The Kid Who Would Be King ...
Rated: PG-13 for suggestive content and drug use.
Written and directed by: Joe Cornish.
Starring: Rebecca Ferguson, Patrick Stewart, Louis Ashbourne Serkis, Tom Taylor, Rhianna Dorris, Dean Chaumoo, Denise Gough, Angus Imrie and more.
Grade: Three and a half stars.
It’s about time kids’ adventure movies made it back to the big screen.
“The Kid Who Would Be King” is a welcome return for the genre, with enough action, humor and heart to appeal to the whole family. Even its silliness is often surprisingly clever, delivered beautifully by a cast of mostly unknowns. On top of that, it’s got several messages that are important for both kids and adults in the audience to hear.
The movie focuses on Alex, a 12-year-old British schoolboy who pulls a sword out of a concrete block while on the run from bullies. Doing so drops him in the middle of an ancient war for a throne that doesn’t exist anymore, with Morgana and her army of undead warriors ready and eager to destroy everyone in their path. He’ll need to find his courage, gather an army and follow a code of honor if he wants to save the world.
The movie strikes an excellent balance, firmly maintaining a kid’s perspective without seeming childish in any way. Alex’s approach to discovering a magical sword is both hilarious and refreshingly practical, and they have a wonderful extended joke about fast food that becomes quite emotional later. When the danger arrives, it feels serious without getting depressing or hopeless. The kids’ ability to fight manages to stay just barely believable, focusing more on cleverness than strength.
Other than Rebecca Ferguson and a few delightful appearances by Patrick Stewart, the cast is mostly full of unknowns that do a fantastic job. They all manage to be both naturalistic and interesting, conveying real emotion but also an appropriate level of maturity. This is especially true of Louis Ashbourne Serkis, who plays Alex with a strong streak of both nobility and practicality.
The Arthurian legend also gets some well-chosen updates. The mix of characters of color is excellent, feeling natural instead of constructed. The one girl in the main cast is the very brave and knight-like Kaye. It also tweaks its description of the chivalric code in a way that’s both easy to understand and makes it good advice for absolutely everyone.
On a deeper level, the movie also does a fantastic job of deconstructing the “special lineage” idea that so often comes along with being the hero in one of these types of stories. It’s a plot point, but it’s also an important message for so many audience members who come from perfectly average or even less-than-stellar circumstances. It even analyzes the classic school bully trope, handling it in a way that’s both believable and surprisingly inspiring.
The biggest message the movie has, however, is also its most important. It’s basically a call to battle for the rising generation, telling them to fight injustice and despair wherever they see it. It’s aimed at the kids in the movie, but it’s important for everyone to hear.
Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Denver Film Critics Society. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at email@example.com.