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Review: ‘The Kid Who Would Be King’ is a lengthy, generic disappointment

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Despite the rave reviews it’s receiving, “The Kid Who Would Be King” never quite lives up to its lofty expectations. (Photo courtesy of IMDb)

When the first trailer for writer-director Joe Cornish’s modern retelling of King Arthur’s timeless adventure first hit theaters, it quickly made it’s way into my “skip” pile. It looked like a perfectly fine family-oriented film, but nothing about its classic storyline and generic jokes seemed enticing to me.

However, a shocking 88% rating on Rotten Tomatoes forced me to reconsider. What could I be missing here? I’m not too proud to admit I can misjudge movies, so I gave in and decided to see for myself.

Unfortunately, I still haven’t been able to figure out all of the hype.

Set in modern day England, “The Kid Who Would Be King” follows Alex (Louis Ashbourne Serkis), an unpopular outcast who discovers the mythical Sword in the Stone. With his nerdy sidekick Bedders (Dean Chaumoo) by his side, the two discover the true powers of Excalibur and receive a visit from a teenage version of the legendary wizard, Merlin (Angus Emrie). Merlin informs them of the danger looming just days away as the evil sorceress Morgana (Rebecca Ferguson) plots her revenge and subsequent world domination. Like true Knights of the Round Table, the Alex and Bedders team up with their schoolyard enemies, Lance (Tom Taylor) and Kaye (Rhianna Dorris), in an attempt to save the world.

For a children’s movie, this film drags on far too long. Initially, the natural charm of the youngsters’ camaraderie is enough to carry the film on its own, but with a whopping two hour runtime, the appeal quickly fades. Especially considering what appears to be the final showdown unfolds, but then it’s revealed this only the end of the second act, and we’ve still got another final-final battle to get through. What could have been a crisp 80-minute film is stretched into two full hours – enough to test the patience of children and adults alike.

While the story itself is nothing revolutionary, nor was it expected to be, the script that accompanies it is fairly dull. I understand this is a children’s movie and we shouldn’t be expecting Aaron Sorkin, but not everything needs to be bland, dumbed down and explicitly explained.

Throughout the film, there are glimpses of animated zombie-like villains here and there, which are somewhat tolerable individually, but during the finale, the weakness is truly exposed as it turns into nothing more than CGI mayhem.

As all children’s films tend to do, “The Kid Who Would Be King” is heavily-ladened with forced morals and chivalric life lessons. Yes, these can be important ways to teach young audiences important values, but again, there are better ways to share them than blatantly stating them over and over again. Can’t we give the audience just a little bit of credit here?

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad movie, but it isn’t nearly as good as it’s getting credit for – it’s perfectly decent all the way through. Despite its many flaws, “The Kid Who Would Be King” is a light, low-stakes film that children 10 and under will most likely love. But for parents and those above? You may want to sit this one out.

Star Rating: 2 out of 5

Zach Goins View All

Zach Goins is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association based in Charlotte, N.C. Zach co-founded Inside The Film Room in 2018 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of the website and co-host of the podcast. Zach also serves as a film critic for CLTure.org.

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