The Kid Who Would Be King (2019)
For kids who rule
I saw a poster for this when I went to the theater once. What a novel concept I thought - like seeing some bizarre flavor of candy on a shelf. Then a trailer came on at a different movie, and I went from passing acknowledgement to interested. Fast forward to the present, when my movie queue is still battling with getting me the movies that are supposed to get here, and this little fella decides to show up all strutting it’s stuff like “remember me?” Let’s see if this family flick can entertain me in the grand old ways and tap into that inner Arthurian kid, tonight we look at The Kid Who Would be King.
I don’t think I’ve watched a movie in recent remembrance that has hit such a nostalgic chord with me. This in part to me is weird or slightly mysterious - I’ve gotten G.I.JOE movies, Predator retreads, alien reboots, a colossal resurgence of the king of monsters himself Godzilla - all things that I have a history with. Sure, some have more history than others, and yet here’s this little movie about a kid drawing Excalibur and going on a quest in modern times that has at best an inspiration and re imagining of the Sword in the Stone classic King Arthur story line - and yet the entire time I feel like a kid. Not only that, but when I’m not feeling like a kid watching it, I’m making audible plays in my head stating things like “oh man, younger me would have killed for this movie!” or “I would have been so stoked to be in that kids place!” I almost feel bad writing this up now, because I feel like I’m somehow super jaded in the positive for the movie that I have no real reason to be so skewed for despite a long history of loving everything to do with knights. Regardless though, I have to give props where props are due even before I get to the rest of the review - I had fun with this movie. Much like the giddy feeling from hearing the reborn themes of the monsters in the most recent Godzilla movie, I couldn’t help but just feel good while watching this.
Now, to be a bit more analytical about it, yeah, the plot is basically somewhat a modern retread of the King Arthur tale - so much so to the point that they use a story book almost beat for beat within the movie as a plot helping device. Oh no, the sword broke! Might as well consult the book of plot page forty-five paragraph three sub-line seven: “and they did turn to the lady of the lake and she did bequeth to them the sword of kings reborn.” This will lead to it feeling a bit dry as far as twists, completely foreseeable as far as events, and rather routine when it comes to pacing and characters - and I won’t fault a person for noticing it and calling it out on it. That said, it does a decent job bringing it to the now, complete with use of some modern items at times and a magic reason for which these events can happen without the entire world just keying in on it. The flow, despite being predictable, is still fine and keeps things going enough even during the more heart-strings moments that the younger group brought in to the family movie shouldn’t find themselves getting too bored while watching it. Sure, people who are more interested in knights and magic and the general fantasy style will be more prone to enjoyment, but the only real thing missing from this being something like a Disney movie is the lack of a straight-up dead parent.
The major force of actors here is a younger crowd too. In this day and age, we’ve come to understand that they can act well - so when they do a good job here, it’s no real surprise. The roles at times can be pretty by-the-numbers, and I’m certainly not going to fault the actors for it when that’s the case, but every now and then there is perhaps a bit of over-acting going on. Given that it’s a family movie that tends to break up even a serious mood with a little bit of light hearted amusement, I feel like over-acting is the least of things that should be expected, but it thankfully doesn’t go overboard with it. The surprise Patrick Stewart is also a nice touch, as the man can bring fun and a sense of polish to any of his performances.
The humor here is going to be hit or miss - it always is going to be, that’s the nature of comedy. Some moments got a chuckle out of me, most would get a grin, but nothing here made me laugh so hard I rolled out of my chair like an Autobot. Probably the most hearty chuckle was during the setup for the final battle, when you have all these kids decked out for battle but still wearing their eclipse glasses, providing this somewhat hysterical combination of knight and 3d-glasses look that I just couldn’t keep a straight face for. There isn’t a lot of slapstick in there, although a few physical humor moments are present - more surprising to most is that despite this being a family movie, you won’t find any fart jokes. It’s usually a given low-hanging fruit that all these movies try to get, and yet unless I somehow totally missed it, not present at all. Bravo for taking the hard way out movie.
Effects work is pretty good. Sure, sometimes the enemies might look a bit animated - which isn’t really that big a deal - but for the most part everything looks good. Oddly, perhaps sadly, the worst looking effect is in my opinion the big bad boss lady herself, in particular when she hits her “final form” of the movie. Honestly, it’s less to do with the fake-ness of the effect as much as I’m just not a big fan of the creature design on display. Most the kid-related stuff is good, and that nostalgia nerve broke free of my body when I witnessed a bunch of kids wearing armor with swords and traffic-sign shields doing battle - even if occasionally in the bigger shots there’s occasionally a person swinging at nothing or looking in the wrong place. The little story-book style opening scene is also a nice little touch, especially given it’s basically just narration of the story of King Arthur that most of us all know (with a few embellishments to guide into the movie story). The settings are fun in the scenery sense - you get to see a lot of island action and pretty landscapes, with a few bits of spooky cave. The castle-school action is entertaining, but when it comes to the setting proper it is still a school, something many are familiar with - even if perhaps the traps aren’t so familiar.
Audio department has things balanced well. You don’t find yourself wanting to hear something, and if someone has a problem it’ll probably largely be accent based (even though in my book it’s barely even an accent and have heard far harder to follow accents with more slang implementation in something like Attack the Block). The songs do a good job of fitting the scenes and movie, helping with the emotional chords and pumping you up - but they also don’t stick around with me much after the movie. Lines are delivered well, and the accompanying sound effects to any of the on screen actions are well done and don’t remove you from the movie in the slightest. Magic in the movie has a small sound component to it, with some claps and snaps, but largely ends up being a bombastic flurry of arm motions - perhaps somewhat played up for the comedy.
I enjoyed this movie. Perhaps I enjoyed it more than I should. Looking at it after the fact, it’s pretty cookie cutter with many of it’s aspects - but you know what, I’ve been a supporter of the fact that it doesn’t have to be different to be good (just to stand out). Another example of that would be the Marvel universe - they are all superhero movies, but they mostly all also have just enough of a genre bend to them that they don’t feel the exact same. This falls into a similar basket for me - yeah, I’ve seen takes on King Arthur, some of them even kids or family movies - but this one manages to be entertaining and a feel-good jaunt for it’s duration that makes it feel worthwhile to have watched. I’d wager most would be fine with minimum a rental on this one, and wouldn’t be to surprised to hear a bunch of people like it enough to buy it. Kick back and let your inner Knight-loving kid have some fun for a change - after all, isn’t there a kid in every old soul?