Alexander Elliot is a 12-year-old from London who does not have many memories of his father, who left at a very early age. He has a best friend named Bedders who sees the two of them as Sam and Frodo, or Donkey and Shrek, Alex being the latter of either. But Alex is not in the best of mood for his enthusiasm. But one day, when Alex alone is chased to this construction site by two bullies, Lance and Kay, he finds a sword with its tip suffused in a big lump of stone, and he manages to pull it out. He and Beddles type the Latin inscriptions from the sword into Google Translate, and it says ‘The Sword of Arthur, the son of Tintagel’. There’s a chance this sword is the actual Excalibur of King Arthur himself. According to the story, when Arthur became chosen as the heir, his half-sister Morgana was jealous and wanted the power of the sword, but he vanquished her, with her last words promising to resurface when he is gone and the next heir is found and possesses the sword once again. That’s all I’ll say for the synopsis.
After the terrific Into-the-Spiderverse esque picture-book intro, things start to seem a bit simplistic, Alex trying to save Pebbles by standing up to the bullies and getting shoved down into a puddle where his papier-mache sun and moon sog up, and feeling that trying to get the higher-up people to interfere would make things worse. Alex begins to just not see the joy in being 12 years old when that means he has no power to help others and any attempt causes scrapes and bruises. But all of this is still perfectly suitable for children. Then some beings pull themselves out of the ground and some kids under nine years old may need to cover their eyes or have assurance from a parent they’re not actually as deadly as they look.
Before I go any further, let me say I knew nothing about this film at all. From the poster, I thought it would be a kids triumph over corrupt adults story, and it technically is, but it is put into the care of a fantasy with bouncy stances on European travel sites, demons made of bone, sorcerers that are out for blood, and chasms untouched for centuries. And it’s made in the fashion of youth empowerment, innocence and ferocity.
My friend and I who saw this movie laughed quite a significant lot, especially with Merlin, young and old. Angus Imrie’s perfectly grammarly and shamelessly loud performances sputter giggles with every opening of his mouth, especially when he travels in his birthday suit to the present. Even the snapping tricks he does with his hands to recite a spell touch my funny bone. They happen quite a few times in this movie, but I never once got tired of it. Merlin also represents a gross-out element involving beetle blood, beaver urine and animal bone. Don’t ask. But it’s more funny that cringey.
There are tough moments in the film that will remind not just kids but adults of when they first realized how many people are affected by drinking and inner demons, and when they realized not every school bully will stop bullying you if you either leave them alone, tell on them, or ask them to stop. And there is a perfect mix of contemporary and fantasy sets that have a balance of a kid's imagination and a kid's nightmares scrambled together. It has a soundtrack that sometimes gripped me in literal terms and it has the air of wrapping up on an anticlimactic wave but thankfully fakes us out for a completely delightful caper that allows an adult to witness actual magic. This part will have only the most obnoxious of adults rolling their eyes.
But here’s where The Kid Who Would Be King really shines. It reminds us that when battles between adults with no supposed end and adamant hatred rampage everywhere, sometimes it’s the ones who still have baby teeth who should be taken seriously. It also reminds us of when we believed if we dreamt for something hard enough it would appear in our hands. It reminds us of the transition we all went through between believing we could one day fly like a bird and thinking maybe the world is too cruel for that possibility. It reminds us of our childhood innocence and how important it is we don’t lose it. That’s definite movie magic, especially when we get a movie with a budget as big as this one to look at all the seriousness and care this had. It’s too bad it’s projected to be a box office bomb. This shouldn’t have been released in January. It has the goods to compete alongside summer blockbusters.