Film Review: The Kid Who Would Be King – 7.5/10

‘I’m not huddling anybody. I don’t huddle...’

Since finding initial success with Attack the Block in 2011, British writer-director Joe Cornish has created two well-received projects in the shape of The Kid Who Would Be King and Lockwood & Co. Unfortunately, the former bombed at the box office whilst the latter was cancelled by Netflix after “viewing numbers didn’t meet the threshold to greenlight a second season”. While he has had more success as a writer (having been heavily involved in both Ant-Man and Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin), there is a nagging feeling that there is a smash hit success inside Cornish just waiting to get out…

Alex (Louis Serkis) is a typical British kid. He’s anonymous at school often falling foul of local bullies Lance (Tom Taylor) and Kaye (Rhianna Dorris). His only friend Bedders (Dean Chaumoo) is more of a geek than he is. And he is also a distant relative of King Arthur which enables him to extract a mysterious sword embedded in concrete leading to much mayhem and destruction. Everyday stuff. Elsewhere, Merlin (Angus Imrie) shows up in the form of a child (he ages backwards, you see), but he occasionally reveals his true form (Patrick Stewart) when he needs to be cross with someone. After some brief tomfoolery, Alex recruits his former nemeses Lance and Kaye, and along with Bedders, the quartet set out on an old-fashioned Arthurian quest.

Cornish has identified both Excalibur and E.T. as primary influences here but I would also throw in Time Bandits and the Indiana Jones franchise. In fact, he is clearly indebted to Spielberg’s family films more generally and of the many movies that have attempted to capture the tone and feel of Spielberg’s 80s and 90s classics, this one perhaps succeeds the most (whilst still remaining stubbornly its own thing). Serkis (son of Andy) is charming rather than heroic in the leading role and the young cast does a great job of bringing both humour and peril to the proceedings without ever sacrificing plot. At two hours, the film is perfectly paced and it’s a shame that it didn’t perform better at the box office (although it follows in a long line of Arthurian films that have failed to recoup their budget). This is exactly the kind of family-friendly, something-for-everyone film that is currently missing from the cinematic slate in favour of endless sequels and reboots.

The Kid Who Would Be King is a big-hearted, captivating and suitably epic film that will hopefully be recognised as such with the benefit of hindsight. Vastly underrated (and currently streaming on Disney+).