The Kid Who Would be King
Photo courtesy Big Talk Productions
The Kid Who Would Be King” is proof that sometimes, they do make ‘em like they used to. It’s a sweet, funny adventure story that is a total anomaly in today’s children’s entertainment landscape. It is guileless, naïve and free from irony; it is sincere, and it directly promotes a message of sincerity as a cure for modern ills and evils. I am the first to laugh at all the jokes aimed at adults throughout most kids’ movies today, but the old-fashioned purity of “The Kid Who Would Be King” was a breath of fresh air.
Two sweet-faced child actors, who can only be accurately described as “youngsters,” play earnest classmates and best friends Alex (Louis Ashbourne Serkis), who tries to be brave, and Bedders (Dean Chaumoo), who tries to perform magic. Naturally, these dear souls are tormented by alpha middle schoolers Lance (Tom Taylor) and Kaye (Rhianna Dorris). And one night, fleeing these bullies, our heroes stumble upon Excalibur, sticking up out of a construction site. Does Alex pull the sword from the stone? Of course he does.
Coincidentally, Alex has a beloved storybook of King Arthur that his estranged father left for him, and the boys fantasize that Alex is indeed now the once and future King of England because he wields the sword. From deep underground, the evil sorceress Morgana sends undead skeleton soldiers in pursuit of the boys and the sword. Then the film’s greatest treat, Merlin, arrives on the scene.
The real, old man Merlin (portrayed by Patrick Stewart) disguises himself as a teenaged boy, with an impossibly long neck, marvelously incongruous self-possession and the impromptu pseudonym Merton. A young actor named Angus Imrie steals the show as the irrepressible young Merlin, confidently imparting the wisdom of the chivalric code, swordplay and magic to his tender young followers. It’s pretty hard to be the best version of a role that one shares with Patrick Stewart, but this whippersnapper pulls it off.
Like Merlin, the film itself has respect for the innocence of children. Merlin teaches them to use their youth and nimble lightness to their advantage in sword fights, and the ultimate battle between good and evil takes place at their middle school. The bad guys are not that scary compared to most of what you see onscreen today. “The Kid Who Would Be King” is not cool. And that’s such a nice change of pace.
My son liked how Alex brought the bullies to his side, in a nice scene that takes place over what the kids realize is a modern-day round table, once they open the sides out. Lance and Kaye must overcome their greed and self-serving instincts to fight alongside a leader who is physically smaller and weaker than they are. Alex, like King Arthur, unites the warring factions of Britain, for the greater good.
Is this message too simple, too naïve, for today’s problems? Is the solution too idealistic for jaded audiences, and will this film appeal primarily to the tenderhearted, under-twelve set? Absolutely, and for that, it is a dear little gem of an adventure story to be cherished.
“The Kid Who Would Be King” is currently available to rent.
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