Despite the fact I’m a movie critic, I understand it can be problematic to read reviews before going to a movie. After all, it’s my job to influence your opinion — and perhaps even deter you from watching a film. However, there’s also a decent chance you won’t agree with me because film enjoyment is in the eye of the beholder.
The same thing happened to me with “The Kid Who Would be King.” While the movie is a box office flop, critics love it. The film has an 87 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, which is actually a percentage point higher than it was when I saw it yesterday. More than that, it’s written and directed by “Attack the Block” director Joe Cornish.
Before I get carried away, I’m not saying “The Kid Who Would Be King” is a bad film. It’s really not. But, I went into the film thinking it was going to be so awesome. I adore the King Arthur legend, and the film features Patrick Stewart as Merlin and Rebecca Ferguson as Morgana. Heck yeah! In the end, I expected too much. It’s not that the film isn’t decent, but I wanted my socks blown off. Instead, I found myself yawning at times as I watched the film struggle to find its footing.
“The Kid Who Would be King” is a blend of mythic and modern as King Arthur’s epic sword Excalibur finds a new owner in today’s world. Alex (Louis George Serkis) is a young boy who’s bullied at school. He and his best friend, Bedders (Dean Chumbo), are easy prey for the bullies at school, Lance (Tom Taylor) and Kaye (Rhianna Dorris).
When Alex, the lonely boy of a single mother, finds Excalibur buried in a stone in an abandoned construction site, he meets Merlin (played by both Stewart and Augie Imrie). This leads him on a quest that will cause him to make knights of Bedders, Lance and Kaye as he prepares to face off against the evil Morgana, who hopes to take over the world.
There is so much potential here, y’all. It’s King Arthur, Patrick Stewart and Rebecca Ferguson. It’s an epic story! And, parts of it are epic. “The Kid Who Would be King” has an epic kind of feel to it that’s reminiscent of films I watched as a kid. (Make no mistake, while the critics love it, this is definitely a kids’ film. It feels very ‘80s, though. It’s very “Goonies.”) It’s an adventure that’s determined to make a 12-year-old heart race.
If it was done really well, it’d make this 30-something’s heart race, too. And that’s the thing. The film is done well on a lot of levels. The acting is superb, and the story is on point. There’s familial drama, monsters and sword fights! It’s drama, melodrama and adventure all rolled into one.
The film is chock-full of fantasy adventure. Merlin has plenty of spells up his sleeve, although they’re all cast through some really odd hand movements. Monsters with flaming swords are numerous and must be put down, although this isn’t really hard to do. And there’s Morgana herself, the ultimate witch. She wanted Camelot for herself and now she wants the world. Ferguson is a wonderful actress. She’s shown her talent again and again. When you cast someone of her caliber, you’ll really use them, right? Tell that to Cornish. Ferguson is relegated to a witch tied to a tree and the voice of a dragon/slug thing that looks like one of Dracula’s brides from 2004’s “Van Helsing.” (For those who never saw “Van Helsing” and its glorious badness — I loved the movie, but it had so many issues — the brides aren’t well done.)
The mind-boggling decision to bench Ferguson had me wondering if “The Kid Who Would Be King” spent its entire CGI budget on the epic battle that takes place between the flaming-sword bad guys and the kids Alex and his knights recruit to be their army. They hole up at the school, and the whole thing feels very much like it belongs in an episode of “The A-Team: The Teen Years.”
It’s a good enough scene, but we’ve seen it all before at least a dozen times — in the past six months. A lot more drama and mileage could have been achieved by focusing on the actors and less on the climactic battle between CGI armies/baddies and on-screen talent.
That’s not to say I didn’t like the movie. I simply expected to have my face melted off like a bunch of Nazis who looked at the Ark of the Covenant in “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” It never really got that hot for me though. I hope it does for you. Every film deserves to find its audience.