Review: The Kid Who Would Be King

Score: B

Director: Joe Cornish

Cast: Louis Ashbourne Serkis, Dean Chaumoo, Patrick Stewart, Rebecca Ferguson

Running Time: 132 Minutes

Rated: PG

The 1980s were littered with movies about quests. Most of these were pretty bad, but a lot of them have endured on nostalgia alone. I'm not immune. I was obsessed with The NeverEnding Story and still hold a completely non-objective love for it. The Kid Who Would Be King is clearly made for kids who grew up on those films and now have kids of their own.

Made with a panache missing from other attempts at modern quest movies like Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Joe Cornish directs for the first time since his entertaining debut Attack the Block. In a sea of nondescript blockbusters, Cornish stands out with tactile set pieces, even when the bad guys are CGI.

Louis Ashbourne Serkis (son of Andy) takes the lead as Alex, who's above the bottom rung of the social ladder at school, but not by much. He's best friends with Bedders (Dean Chaumoo), but wishes he would try harder to be invisible, so as not to attract the attention of the school bullies (Tom Taylor and Rhianna Dorris).

When fleeing from them one night, he hides at an abandoned construction site, discovering and unsheathing the mythical Excalibur. This sets into motion the convoluted plot, including the awakening of the evil Morgana (Rebecca Ferguson) and the arrival of Merlin (Patrick Stewart). Adding to the complications, Merlin often disguises himself as a fellow kid, played magnetically by Angus Imrie.

There's far too much going on The Kid Who Would Be King, but it takes itself seriously. Its subtext, touching on themes of parental abandonment and the divided political landscape, is far more interesting than the Arthurian legend stuff.

But the film also looks fantastic. The cast members really are at Stonehenge and racing through London streets. Sure, some of it is filmed on sets, but unlike a lot of superhero films, they don't feel indistinguishable from one another.

We surely didn't need another King Arthur movie, or another quest for a "goober" (as so perfectly put in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), but Joe Cornish has made a handsome, entertaining one. Hopefully next time, we won't have to wait so long for him to make another.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.