The legend of “King Arthur” gets an update in 20th Century Fox’s The Kid Who Would Be King from director Joe Cornish. Alexander Elliot (Louis Ashbourne Serkis) is a young lad living in England who spends his days avoiding local bullies Lance (Tom Taylor) and Kay (Rhianna Dorris). Alex’s best friend Bedders (Dean Chaumoo) is also a victim of the bullies, until one day Alex decides to stand up for Bedders and ends up with detention.
After narrowly escaping another beat down from the bullies, Alex lucks up and finds the legendary “Sword in The Stone” which awakens the wizard Merlin (Angus Imrie/Patrick Stewart). Merlin warns Alex that the evil Morgana (Rebecca Ferguson) has plans to for world domination and it’s up to Alex to stop her. After recruiting Lance, Kay, and Bedders to join his round table, the kids set out to stop Morgana and save the world.
I initially had low expectations for The Kid Who Would Be King as I’ve seen numerous versions of the King Arthur story and had no desire to see a modernized version. However, upon learning that Joe Cornish who helmed 2011’s vastly underrated Attack the Block was directing, I walked into The Kid Who Would Be King with an open mind.
One of the first things I noticed about the film was Cornish’s decision to use a play on words for the characters and their correlation to the source material. Lance and Kay represent Lancelot and Sir Kaye while Bedders represents Sir Bedivere. It was a wise decision to make, as it gives old fans and new fans something to discuss when the film is over.
Regarding the acting, the cast of mostly unknowns do quite well in their roles. Seeing the foursome go from enemies to allies is a natural progression and never comes across as phony. In the lead as Alexander, Louis Ashbourne Serkis shines as Alex, and while he may not possess brute strength, it’s clear his heart is the reason why he was chosen to be king. In the role of Merlin Angus Imrie/Patrick Stewart both play well off each other. Imrie portrays a teenager version while Stewart portrays the older version. I also enjoyed Rebecca Ferguson as the evil Morgana, and I would love to see her as a villain more often.
Like most children’s films The Kid Who Would Be King does fall short in a few areas. For starters, the film is too long for a children’s film. While I respected the angle, Cornish was going for in one subplot involving Alexander’s past; the entire subplot slows down the pace of the film. Younger audiences may start to get bored as the film has a two hour run time. I was also upset at the omission of the character of Guinevere. From the trailers I was under the impression that Rhianna Dorris may portray Guinevere; however, this wasn’t the case.
Nevertheless, The Kid Who Would Be King succeeds more than it fails, as the film wants to do nothing more than modernizing the legend of King Arthur. While I don’t see the movie doing anything huge at the box office, I’m sure once it hits the home market, it will find an audience.
Final Grade: B