Cast: Louis Ashbourne Serkis, Tom Taylor, Rebecca Ferguson, Angus Imrie
Director: Joe Cornish
One of the things I try to stress when watching a movie is you have to take into account the intended audience for movies you may not like as much as others do. The Kid Who Would Be King is not looking to get my money, so I have to take that into consideration when reviewing the movie. For a movie aimed at younger audiences, this could’ve been significantly worse than what we actually got, so I have to give the movie credit for at least being watchable for someone outside of the target demographic. That’s really all you can say about a movie like this, as even though it has an unnecessarily long runtime of 120 minutes, The Kid Who Would Be King is a fundamentally docile movie that younger audiences will get the most out of.
The film follows Alex (Serkis), a young boy who struggles with bullies in school and finding his place in the world. One night when he is running away from bullies, he pulls a sword from a stone and with it comes a journey placed on him by Merlin (Imrie) to defend the world from the return of Morgana (Ferguson) during the eclipse in four days. From a narrative structure, this film is pretty straightforward and follows a relatively linear story that mirrors the story of King Arthur with a modern twist. We’ve seen a lot of these in recent years with Robin Hood coming out last year and 2017’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, and much like these previous attempts, The Kid Who Would Be King fails to really capitalize on the premise and do something unique or interesting. For younger audiences that won’t care as much, this isn’t a problem as they’re more focused on being entertained by the visuals, but for anyone else, the film gets relatively boring in a rather fast amount of time. Sure some of the action sequences and set pieces are nice to look at and some of the jokes are just cheesy enough to land for all audiences, but these moments are few and far between. One of the things that adds to the monotony is the 2 hour runtime. If I was having a tough time paying attention to this movie as it dragged on, I can’t imagine how younger viewers felt about their experience. There is no realistic reason a movie like needed to be 2 hours long as there was an easy 15-20 minutes that could’ve been cut to create a nice, concise movie. Outside of the runtime, there were two things that stood out to me that maybe won’t bother the younger audiences, but that annoyed me to no end. The first is that Merlin does magic in about the most annoying way humanly possible. There was no need for these moments as he very easily could’ve done magic using a wand or sticking out his hand like in every other movie, but instead we get a teenager that looks like he’s having a seizure while playing patty-cake with himself. The other thing is that Lance (Taylor), Alex’s main bully turned ally, is insufferable for an extended period of the first and second act. I get that he’s supposed to have a character arch and that we’ll like him after he proves he can be good, but after Lance’s change, he pretty much disappears for the rest of the film. There’s no point in having a redemption arch if the character never has an opportunity to prove their worth, so all we’re left with is a character that aggravates the viewers whenever he shows up. This movie is wildly inconsistent, ranging from charming and funny at some points and at others being boring and mean-spirited, and a more ironed out story might have given us something that appeals to more than just the demographic that this film is looking to go after.
Overall, you parents out there are in for a rough one. Your kids will probably enjoy the movie on principle, but this isn’t exactly one of the movies that also has something in store for you too. Is this movie for the most part harmless fun? Of course. Does that fun translate to anyone over the age of maybe 13? Not so much. I don’t actively root for movies to bomb since a lot of people worked very hard on this project, but when the last three major medieval movies failed, maybe it’s time for everyone to hold off on these stories for a while and focus on how to make them work for modern audiences. One day we might get that movie, but The Kid Who Would Be King is not it and serves mainly as a timekiller for people who want something safe and benevolent.
Overall Score: 5.5/10