THE KID WHO WOULD
*** ½ out of five stars
Writer/director Joe Cornish presents a modern-day Arthurian adventure from the perspective of some very plucky kids.
Alexander Eliot (played by Louis Ashbourne Serkis) is a young boy starting primary school in London. He lacks direction in life but has a strong sense of justice. This is evidenced when he saves fellow student Bedders (Dean Chaumoo) from bullies Lance (Tom Taylor) and Kaye (Rhianna Doris). One fateful night, he winds up in a barren construction site. There, he finds a peculiar-looking sword embedded in the rubble and he manages to pull it out. Alex and Bedders identify the sword as the legendary Excalibur and surmise that Alex is the rightful heir to King Arthur.
The next day, a mysterious student at the school turns out to be the sorcerer Merlin (played by Angus Imrie as young Merlin and by Patrick Stewart as an old Merlin). Merlin warns that Arthur’s evil half-sister Morgana (Rebecca Ferguson) will return during the upcoming solar eclipse and will use her undead army to enslave the world. Alex only has four days to stop her. Alex and Bedders form a new Round Table with the reluctant aid of Lance and Kaye. The four youths set out on a quest to train under Merlin and to find and kill Morgana before she can set her plans into action.
The Kid Who Would Be King could be described as a cross between Harry Potter and The Sword and the Stone. Much like Potter, it features young heroes wielding magic to battle evil in a contemporary setting. Whereas the Potter series had a darker edge to it that appealed to people of all ages, Kid is more light-hearted and will mostly appeal to younger viewers. The morality lessons in the film are rather predictable and a bit heavy-handed. The film still offers elements to charm adult audience members, however.
The acting is top-notch. It’s always inspiring to see quality acting from children, and the young leads here are all very good. Chuamoo as the eager, rotund Bedders and Imrie as Merlin’s socially awkward youthful form are the funniest and most memorable players. And the presence of Patrick Stewart as Merlin’s older incarnation, and the narrator of the film’s prologue, is very welcome.
The crew behind the camera is also worth noting. Director/writer Joe Cornish, cinematographer Bill Pope and producer Nira Park have all worked with Edgar Wright in the past. Kid unsurprisingly has a similar flavor to Wright’s films like Scott Pilgrim, Baby Driver and the Cornetto Trilogy, particularly in its visual style. Both Cornish and Wright are British, and while Kid is set in England, its sensibilities, as in their other works, have universal appeal.
It’s unfortunate that The Kid Who Would Be King is struggling at the box office. The film should delight children and offer a decent amount of enjoyment for those young at heart. But don’t try lifting any sword out of a stone at home, okay?