It’s been 8 years (well, 7 years and 1 month) since Joe Cornish directed Attack the Block. A Sci-Fi Comedy ‘Die Hard’ with aliens, it was great cinematic escapism set in rural London. This time, Joe Cornish sets his eyes on a younger audience with his family adventure film ‘The Kid Who Would Be King’. Though it is problematic and far too long, it’s a brilliantly fun adventure that kids will absolutely love.
The film takes place in contemporary Britain, in a London secondary school. After twelve-year-old Alex finds Excalibur at a building site, he is lead on a magical quest with the help of his friends and Merlin the magician. However, the evil enchantress Morgana is underground and leading an army of the undead to take over Britain, and it’s up to Alex to save the world before the human race is enslaved.
Playing Alex is Louis Ashbourne Serkis, son of Andy Serkis, and boy is he charming. His charisma really carries the film, and I’ll be damned is he isn’t the spitting image of his father. Accompanying him are young cast Dean Chaumoo as Bedders (Sir Beververe), Tom Taylor as Lance (you already know this one) and Rhianna Dorris as Kaye (Sir, or in this case, Lady Kay). Also starring, and stealing the show, is Celia Imrie’s son Angus, who plays a young Merlin, and he is hilariously quirky as a man completely out of his time. Also starring are Patrick Stewart as an older version of Merlin, Adam Buxton cameoing as a Stone Henge tour guide, and a horribly underused Rebecca Ferguson as Morgana.
The film’s adventure takes the kids across England from London to Cornwall and Glastonbury, and it’s a real achievement that the young cast completely own this film. Not since The Goonies has a young cast had such a watchable charm together. The film is Waterloo Road meets Excalibur, and well balances the kid’s personal dramas with the huge scale Arthurian action taking place. They are alone onscreen without adult supervision for almost all of the film, and this is refreshing to see such confidence from Joe Cornish in his young, new cast.
So, unfortunately this film is not a runaway success despite its fun story and compelling actors. The first thing to be said is that it is far too long. Clocking in at two hours, it begins to get tiresome before the end and this feels a real shame. As well as this, the CGI battles get very repetitive after a while. On top if this, there are also clear Brexit allegories scattered throughout and these felt very out of place for a kid’s film.
Overall, The Kid Who Would Be King is an entertaining family affair. Though it is baggy around the edges and gets a bit tiresome during the CGI fight-fest finale, it is still an exciting romp that is a perfect half-term treat.