Where did all the great kids 80s movies go? This might seem like a dumb question, but you know what I mean. As we get older and have the joy of introducing amazing and fantastical films to the new generation, we always return to the classics like ‘The Goonies’, ‘E.T.’, ‘The Neverending Story’, ‘Honey, I Shrunk The Kids’, ‘Jumanji' - but can anyone name one from the last 20 years? Even the ‘Jumanji’ sequel had an adult cast... playing teenagers, but still. Those whimsical adventures with a pre-pubescent cast at its core have been lost. Luckily for us, someone still has a sense of the good old days.
Alex (Louis Ashbourne Serkis, ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’) is a 12-year-old boy who has his mum, his best friend Bedders (Dean Chaumoo) and a bully problem. While never afraid to stand up to bullies Lance (Tom Taylor, ‘The Dark Tower’) and Kaye (Rhianna Dorris), he's always outmatched and pays the price. One night while on the run from said bullies, he stumbles across a sword in a stone at a construction sight. He’s able to pull the sword out, and things start getting strange from there. A young Merlin arrives (Angus Imrie) disguising himself - poorly - as an odd new school student Mertin, and quickly tasks Alex and Bedders with their quest to stop Morgana (Rebecca Ferguson, ‘Mission: Impossible - Fallout’) before she rises and enslaves Britain. As a true King, Alex turns enemies into allies and marches on to do the noble thing - but first, he has some hard truths to discover and an army to raise.
With a fresh new spin on the King Arthur tale, director Joe Cornish (‘Attack The Block’) lays on the 80s nostalgia feels with this one - sometimes on purpose, sometimes due to budgetary constraints, but we’ve got 'em all the same. The young cast is just okay, with Angus Imrie being the scene-stealing standout who’s sadly haphazardly utilised. However the CGI element is quite good, and I applaud the use of practical scenery for the entire film (little to no green screen work here) but the Morgana creature design could have been better.
Unfortunately, ‘The Kid Who Would Be King’ isn’t as funny as you’d like it to be, despite two billed comic reliefs. It’s not as scary as you’d like it to be, despite a very cool villain setup and a brilliant actress to portray it. Sadly both Rebecca and Patrick Stewart’s talents are wasted here. And all the pivotal moments in the film are just that little bit undercooked with the biggest of them - the sword in the stone moment - done in a random scene with zero fanfare, leaving you with a “is that it?” reaction.
Director Joe Cornish (‘Attack The Block’) lays on the 80s nostalgia feels with this one - sometimes on purpose, sometimes due to budgetary constraints, but we’ve got 'em all the same.
The film’s biggest and most important strength is its message, and it couldn’t be more timely. ‘The Kid Who Would Be King’ portrays vividly and strongly that age is no excuse not to stand up to wrongs or to do what is right. It also teaches that, although you may be young now and unable to enact the changes you want to see, it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to some day, or that certain smaller changes leading to bigger ones can be made today. I can’t think of a more important message for the next generation to be told.