Sweet ‘The Kid Who Would Be King’ recasts King Arthur legend

by Kate Walz on January 24, 2019

in Print Reviews,Reviews

[Rating: Minor Rock Fist Up]

Arthurian Legend is an easy place to mine for content. There’s multiple monsters, mythic weapons, and scads of source material. In this latest take – which opens with a well-stylized (but, sadly never revisited) cartoon backstory – King Arthur banishes his evil sister Morgana for her crimes of evilness, never to return until people are really and truly jerks again.

And, well, they are. (You’ve read the news, right?)

In typical Arthur fashion, a sword is pulled from a stone, knights battle mythical creatures, and the villain must be slain. But, in The Kid Who Would Be King,  a modern take geared toward the tween set from longtime Edgar Wright collaborator Joe Cornish (Attack the Block), the sword is in a concrete block, the knights are junior high kids battling trees, and the villain can’t be slain without true leadership.

It’s cute.

Alex (Louis Ashbourne Serkis, son of Andy) is the nerdy lead. He and his nerdy buddy deal with bullies and general malaise. Then, a naked weirdo drops from the sky and starts doing weird hand motions to hypnotize people into doing his bidding.

Angus Imrie, playing Merlin in his youthful manifestation (not younger self – it matters) absolutely steals the entire movie. The whole thing. I want to see this kid play Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He’s the most charismatic person on screen, with perfect comedic timing and a way of making the truly ridiculous unquestionably plausible (like those mesmerizing hand motions). The older manifestation of Merlin is Patrick Stewart and it’s hard to decide which one you want back on screen when they switch. Hollywood, I know you read everything I write, so please put Angus Imrie in more movies immediately.

The real fun from The Kid Who Would Be King is watching child’s play become reality – seeing those moments of imagination turn solid. Which isn’t to say it’s all a dream. These kids are jaded by technology and modern life in general, and the moments the inner child in these young characters emerges for adventure are really fun. They’re out in the open, away from technology, on a genuine quest and it’s almost retro.

The jokes are unexpected, occasionally with a light and playful ick factor. Rebecca Ferguson is hissing and bitter in a very Poison Ivy take on Morgana.

The drama lags – Alex is very hung up on his absent Dad, and that whole thing is drawn out. There are a few too many moralizing speeches. Imrie and Stewart are supposed to be the same character, albeit in different forms, but they appear to be two very different characters, which is a little disorienting.

But, ultimately, the movie has a bit to say about leadership and personal responsibility, and it makes its point without hammering you between the eyes about it.

Kate Walz

Kate is a content-consuming pop-culture nerd. Her top 5 movies are: The Philadelphia Story, The Master, The Fountain, What About Bob and The Departed.

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