“Alex, you don’t really believe this sword in the stone is King Arthur’s ‘Excalibur,’ do you?” asks Bedders (Dean Chaumoo). “Of course not!” says Alexander Eliot (Louis Ashbourne Serkis). But he does. Alex and Bedders are 12-year-old best friends and this is the setup for director/writer Joe Cornish’s retelling of the Arthurian legend, as set in post-Brexit Britain.
Will Arthur’s evil half-sister, Morgana Le Fey (Rebecca Ferguson), escape from the Underworld and, with her army of skeletal knights, return to Britain? Can Alex and his Knights of the Round Table defeat Morgana? Will you be entertained by this live-action kid flick? For answers, see “The Kid Who Would Be King.”
Fourteen-year-old Louis Ashbourne Serkis (son of award-winning actor Andy Serkis — Gollum in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy) is talented, smart and appealing as central character Alex, whose long absent father has left him only a book, “Knights of the Round Table,” inscribed “To my once and future king, Love, Dad.” Dean Chaumoo is charming and goofy as magician-wannabe, best friend Bedders. Angus Imrie is an astonishing treat as young Merlin, lighting up the screen whenever he’s on. And, as old Merlin, Sir Patrick Stewart is also a treat. He tells Alex, “You have been chosen to save your kingdom.” “That’s ridiculous,” protests Alex. “I’m only 12 — not even old enough to have a paper route.” But (not a spoiler), Alex is the new Arthur.
Others in the large cast include Tom Taylor and Rhianna Dorris as 16-year-old school bullies, Lance and Kaye, who become (not a spoiler either), Sir Lance and Lady Kaye of the Round Table. Rebecca Ferguson is sinister and powerful Morgana Le Fey. “I am the last living Pendragon,” she tells Alex. “The sword is mine! You are nothing!” Denise Gough and Noma Dumezweni play Alex’s mother, Mary, and his school principal, Mrs. Lee.
“The Kid Who Would Be King” is a hopeful epic adventure in which children are more effective than adults. Principal Lee tells Alex — wrongly — “The world is not going to change; it’s you who has to change.” But Patrick Stewart, as old Merlin, gets it right when he tells Morgana, “You and I are history; the future belongs to Alex and his friends.” And director Joe Cornish gets good performances from his young and inclusive cast.
Rated PG for fantasy action violence, scary images, thematic elements, bullying and language, “TKWWBK” runs two hours. It’s an earnest lesson in self-actualization for young people and a hopeful tale for elders.
“The Kid Who Would Be King,”
Might be a flick for you —
King Arthur and his knights;
It’s legend told anew.