Friday, May 17, 2019

Movie Review: The Kid Who Would Be King

The Kid Who Would Be King *** / *****
Directed by: Joe Cornish   
Written by: Joe Cornish.
Starring: Louis Ashbourne Serkis (Alex), Denise Gough (Mary), Dean Chaumoo (Bedders), Tom Taylor (Lance), Rhianna Dorris (Kaye), Nathan Stewart-Jarrett (Mr. Kepler), Noma Dumezweni (Mrs. Lee), Rebecca Ferguson (Morgana), Mark Bonnar (Mr. Jeffreys), Angus Imrie (Young Merlin), Alexandra Roach (Miss Foster), Nick Mohammed (Mr. Hyde), Patrick Stewart (Adult Merlin), Myra McFadyen (Punto Patty), Genevieve O'Reilly (Sophie). 
Joe Cornish’s fairly low-budget debut film, Attack the Block, garnered the type of attention that many first time directors can only dream of. His Spielberg in the 1980s film – about a group of kids from the projects in London fighting off an alien invasion, got the attention of the right people – he was one of screenwriters alongside Edgar Wright of Spielberg’s underrated Tintin movie, and also worked with Wright on Ant-Man, before being replaced. But you couldn’t help but wonder why he was taking him so long to make his own sophomore film as a director – Attack the Block came out in 2011 after all, and usually you want to strike when the iron is hot. So at long last, earlier this year, came his next film – The Kid Who Would Be King - which is funny and charming, and more involving that it really should be, but also kind of disappointing given that Attack the Block felt so fresh. Yes, the film deserved better than it got at the box office – where it was pretty much ignored (even, sad to say, by me) – but those expecting Cornish to do something bigger and better than Attack the Block in his second film have to be somewhat let down that he only accomplished the former of those two things.
The film is a modern day take on the legend of King Arthur, and stars Louis Ashbourne Serkis (son of Andy) in an incredibly charming performance as Alex. He is being raised by a single mother, has only one real friend – Bedders (Dean Chaumoo) – and is picked on by bullies at school. His father left a while ago, leaving a gap in his life, and like many children abandoned by a parent, he imagines his absent father had good reasons to do so – and may well be a hero out there. Then, through a series of events too complicated to go into here, Alex finds Excalibur – and therefore becomes the rightful heir to the Arthur legacy. He is shocked to discover however that he will actually have to do something about it when Merlin (Angus Imrie), taking the form of a 16-year-old kid, informs him he needs to build an army to fight against Morgana (Rebecca Ferguson), who is going to return because the world has become so divided.
All of this sets into motion an adventure film that may well play like comfort food for those nostalgic for the 1980s and films like The Goonies, but actually want to share it with their own children, which they cannot do with something like Stranger Things. The film is charming, as far it goes, with a good cast of young, diverse actors filling out the roles behind Alex. The action sequences – featuring armies of the undead – are also quite well handled by Cornish and his young cast, with impressive special effects.
The film has more than its share of problems however. At just over two hours, the film is far too long and repetitive – you want them to just get on with it a little bit, and get to the good stuff. Poor Rebecca Ferguson – more than capable of playing a campy role like Morgana – doesn’t really have anything to do here, and lacks any real presence as a villain. You also think that Cornish may play with the Arthur stuff a little more than he does – he is basically just drawing parallels and leaving it at that.
Still, for kids, The Kid Who Would Be King will more than get the job done – if they aren’t the restless type anyway. It is fun and charming and well-acted, and shows us a world in which kids have to save everything, because the adults just don’t understand what they’ve done. They are essentially saving us adults from ourselves – and isn’t that timely right now. I just wish the whole movie was a just a little bit better. Attack the Block was – and hopefully, his next movie will be as well.

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