Film review, by Jason Day, of The Kid Who Would Be King about a bullied 12 year old boy who discovers he is the direct descendant of King Arthur. Written and directed by Joe Cornish.
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Young Alexander (Louis Ashbourne-Serkis) feels like he is a failure. He has only one friend, the loyal and sweet Bedders (Dean Chaumoo) and they are both bullied at school by the bigger Lance (Tom Taylor) and Kaye (Rhianna Dorris). Trying to escape them one day through a building site, he sees an old sword lodged in the concrete and takes it. It turns out to be the mythical Excalibur of King Arthur, making Alex his direct descendant.
When Arthur’s half-sister and nemesis Morgana (Rebecca Ferguson), who has spent centuries trapped in the bowels of the Earth, is resurrected, Alex must team up with his enemies to vanquish her once and for all.
Review, by @Reelreviewer
I’m old enough to remember classic 90’s, late night TV offerings like the delightfully cute and barmy The Adam and Joe Show. Featuring real-life buddies Adam Buxton and Joe Cornish in their shared bedsit (actually, a room above The Body Shop in Brixton, London).
Buxton went on to develop an acting career and pops up in supporting roles in top British comedy films of the past 20 years. Including this one, as a tour guide at Stonehenge.
Cornish turned his megaphone-wielding talents for 22 episodes of these 30 minute nuggets of comic genius into movie directing success – those featuring actors and not toys as in The Adam and Joe Show – kicking off with the funny and intelligent Attack the Block (2011), which launched his and actor John Boyega’s cinematic careers.
That film, with its working class, council estate setting, street-wise humour and some gripping set pieces showed Cornish was able to create intelligent and entertaining productions and, with a BAFTA nomination for Outstanding Debut as a Writer/Director under his belt, a future turning out more wonderful movies seemed set.
Alas, it was not to be. The Kid Who Would Be King is Cornish’s second directorial outing in a decade. But, as a companion piece to Attack the Block, it stands alongside it very well and is more than just a ‘second effort’.
It does dilly-dally throughout the first two reels. The playground bullying is unconvincingly painted, a shame considering Cornish obviously wants to use the ‘conversion’ of the bullies as a round-table analogy.
Then, Cornish’s acutely observant eye for turning the routine into comedy gold revs up.
The fabled round-table is a common, folding dining room offering, with tea and biscuits set out in the middle.
The Dark Ages citadel of Camelot is an inner city academy of the type that schools thousands of London kids of all creeds and backgrounds.
Arthur/Alexander isn’t surrounded by the finest of men. His best friend is a meek and passive boy (“I’ve never been outside of school without adult supervision or a High-Vis vest”) and his ‘Knights’ are vain, cruel and self-indulgent teenagers.
Morgana, the She-Wolf of all ages, is an immobile sorceress, entombed in tree roots beneath Glastonbury Tor with only a skeletal army for company. She has prepared herself for a right royal comeback by repeating a mendacious mantra every minute of every day for over a thousand years. No wonder when she finally emerges, her body stammers around in fits of Tourettic tics.
All of the young cast impress with their own individual times to shine, but Ashbourne-Serkis (son of actor Andy/Gollum Serkis) is an impressive, confident lead.
But Merlin, played brilliantly by Angus Imrie – the son of actress Celia and actor Benjamin Whitrow – is the standout turn.
A teenager who wonders naked into corner shops and merrily declaims the benefits of taking a “constitutional” to air his “crevices and furrows” to bemused police officers.
Cornish uses Imrie to play with the idea of an age old (his older self is played with vim by Patrick Stewart). Staring wide-eyed with delight and sitting with his legs wide open looking at his Arthur, spouting wonderfully exaggerated verbiage (it’s not Olde English at all but is still fun to listen to), listening to Bucks Fizz singing ‘The Land of Make Believe’ as he is questioned about his fantastical origins and being revived by the perfect mix of ground chicken bones, beetle’s juice and badger’s urine – chicken nuggets, cherryade and vanilla ice cream from any old cheap, High Street takeaway – this is a truly hilarious and entertaining performance.
For more, see the official website.
Cast & credits
Director: Joe Cornish. 2 hrs (120 mins). Big Talk Productions/Working Title Films/20th Century Fox. (PG)
Producers: Tim Bevan,
Writer: Joe Cornish.
Camera: Bill Pope.
Music: Electric Wave Bureau.
Sets: Marcus Rowland.
Louis Ashbourne-Serkis, Denise Gough, Dean Chaumoo, Tom Taylor, Rhianna Dorris, Nathan Stewart-Jarratt, Noma Dumazwemi, Rebecca Ferguson, Patrick Stewart, Adam Buxton.