“The Kid Who Would Be King” revels in earnestness.
That’s not a good thing when trying to pull together coherence in a movie meant for younger viewers.
It recognizes the scary times the world — including the U.K. — exists in, and turns to Arthurian legend for its narrative.
The legend, according to “King,” states the sword Excalibur will appear for use by one worthy enough to wield its power to stop evil. With a world divided in every way possible, even in merry ol’ England, now is the time for Excalibur.
That should intrigue any young viewer with a sense of adventure. Initially, however, it doesn’t offer much in the way of curiosity for the movie’s protagonist, Alex (Louis Ashbourne Serkis), a young man dealing with father issues. Topping it off, he’s the only buffer between his best friend Bedders (Dean Chaumoo) and bullies Lance (Tom Taylor) and Kaye (Rhianna Dorris), setting him up for similar abuse.
It’s during one of the moments he’s fleeing them that Alex stumbles upon the mythical “sword in the stone,” returned to help turn the world around. Of course, things aren’t randomly topsy-turvy in the earthly realm; as it turns out, King Arthur’s half-sister and arch nemesis Morgana (Rebecca Ferguson), who is on the verge of a full return, is to blame for the wickedness that’s gripping the planet (insert joke for your favorite politician and who’s to blame here).
For Morgana to be defeated, Louis must undertake a quest with his best friend, guided by the reincarnation of Merlin (Angus Imrie and Patrick Stewart as younger and older versions), and in the process, he must make allies of enemies and all of that Arthury stuff.
The story of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table will forever be ripe for interpretation and re-interpretation. This isn’t one of the better attempts.
Director-writer Joe Cornish could have had a memorable tale here, but the execution of “The Kid Who Would Be King” lacks compelling storytelling. Overall, the narrative is predictable, something audiences have seen before.
As for the performances, the kids leading the quest are game, but can only work with the material they have.
If “The Kid Who Would Be King” appeals to one set, it would be those 10 or younger. For most everyone else, it could be a slog.
George M. Thomas can be reached at email@example.com.