A 12-year-old in modern-day London stumbles upon fabled sword Excalibur as well as the responsibility to save the world in this family fantasy adventure from the writer and director of cult favourite Attack the Block.
There are a bunch of decent family films in cinemas at the moment, and Adam Fresco reckons this is one of ’em.
Joe Cornish follows up his first feature Attack the Block with a kids’ fantasy adventure, updating the King Arthur story to the streets of modern London. Where the Arthur of legend united a kingdom, the Britain of today is divided, and the fate of the state rests on 12-year-old Alex (played by Andy Serkis’ son, Louis).
Bullied at school and friended by few, Alex happens one day upon a sword stuck in a concrete slab. His best mate, sword and sorcery fan Bedders (Dean Chaumoo), reckons it’s Excalibur, and before you can say “magic”, the ancient mage Merlin appears, a sneeze amidst a flurry of feathers heralding his alternate guises of an owl, an eccentric lanky teen (a kooky Angus Imrie), and a potty old sorcerer (played by Patrick Stewart, having a blast, sporting a zany wig and a Led Zeppelin T-shirt).
Alex and a group of young companions are quickly pitched into a quest to defeat King Arthur’s wicked sister, Morgana (Rebecca Ferguson having a ball getting her bad on), and her skeleton guards. Packed with movie nods to Disney’s 1960s version of Arthurian legend, The Sword in the Stone, and Peter Jackson’s Tolkien trilogies, The Kid Who Would Be King is an enjoyable family romp that never takes itself too seriously, outside its core message of unity and how working together we can prevail over the dastardliest foes.
Taking a hint from Spielberg’s family films, Cornish fuses high fantasy and recognisable reality, sidestepping the scary, keeping the action light enough for a family audience in a magical adventure providing just enough CGI, chills, spills, laughs and thrills to keep all ages entertained. The acting from the young cast is energetic enough to almost blind you to the flimsily written characters and clunky plot mechanics of the second act, but the climax delivers a delightfully over-the-top school-based battle, uniting the kids in bashing the bad and showing the grown-ups how it’s done.