The Kid Who Would Be King
It’s been a while since moviegoers have gotten a good King Arthur movie, much less one most of the family can see together — and somehow, in the depths of frosty January, The Kid Who Would Be King delivers both.
Now two-for-two as a feature film director, Joe Cornish helped get the John Boyega train going with Attack the Block and very well may do the same here for Angus Imrie. As young Merlin — technically “really old Merlin,” seeing as the wizard ages backward — the 24-year-old Englishman with a brontosaurus-length neck is a laugh factory, doling out anachronistic dialogue and goofy, snap-heavy magical hand gestures to great effect, unaware that he’s a walking embarrassment.
His out-of-time shenanigans are in the service of teenage Alexander (Louis Ashbourne “Son of Andy” Serkis), who unwittingly pulls Excalibur from a stone in modern-day London and, along with nerdy best friend Bedders (Dean Chaumoo), finds himself in the middle of the battle for the country’s future with banished Arthurian half-sister Morgana (Rebecca Ferguson, Mission: Impossible - Fallout) poised to reclaim her old realm.
The subterranean sorceress’ Ring Wraith-y minions and her eerily echoing voice maybe aren’t great fits for the very young, evinced by a father on my row assuring his daughter that scary imagery was “only a dream.” Relatively disturbing though they are, the enemies are ultimately kind of dumb, and while they pose a serious threat, humanity’s body count is distractingly low.
Through it all, Cornish frames the knightly update in a crisp manner and recruits an ace team of special effects artists to fill the frames with blessedly non-cheesy CGI. The occasional Patrick Stewart appearance to beef up Merlin’s legitimacy with senior citizenry is also pleasant, as is his alternative owl embodiment to drive home the wackiness of the entire jolly adventure.
Grade: B. Rated PG. Now playing at AMC Classic, Biltmore Grande, and Carolina Cinemark
(Photo: Twentieth Century Fox)