A Film and TV Review by Tim Riley
“THE KID WHO WOULD BE KING” Rated PG
The legend of King Arthur comes alive in the modern world when the titular hero of “The Kid Who Would Be King,” a 12-year-old British lad, stumbles upon the Sword in the Stone at a demolition site.
One thing to know about this kid-friendly adventure is that, aside most notably from Patrick Stewart appearing as Merlin the Magician and Rebecca Ferguson as the sorceress Morgana, the central characters are mainly children.
For reasons that are seemingly unrelated to Brexit or not, the United Kingdom is in a state of division and chaos, as newspapers blare headlines of impending war and its unthinkable consequences.
The country’s savior is an unlikely school kid named Alex (Louis Ashbourne Serkis), who along with his nerdy best friend Bedders (Dean Chaumoo), is bullied by classmates Kaye (Rhianna Dorris) and Lance (Tom Taylor).
Fortune as well as a heavy burden fall upon Alex’s shoulders when, in the course of being chased, he happens upon the Excalibur sword and manages to extricate it from a concrete block at a construction site.
A confluence of events, and not just that he has devoured books on King Arthur, convinces Alex that he’s the Chosen One, in other words the once and future king, even if Britain’s Royal Family is already well-established.
The fun part is when the young Merlin (Angus Imrie) shows up disguised as an awkward, socially inept new student at Alex’s school, and fitfully reveals his magical powers in ways hilarious and weirdly offbeat.
When the young Merlin sneezes, he often turns into an owl or becomes his older self (the Patrick Stewart version), adding gravitas to Alex’s mission to save England from the army of undead knights that rise up out of the ground seeking to snatch the Excalibur sword.
The villain is, of course, the evil Morgana, who has been trapped for centuries in a tangled web of vines but now rears her ugly head at the prospect of snatching the Excalibur so that she might plunge England into darkness.
Alex and Bedders, our intrepid heroes, are spurred by young Merlin, recharging himself by devouring chicken nuggets, on a journey to Stonehenge as a gateway to the island of Tintagel, which is linked to King Arthur and ground zero for the clash with Morgana.
Just as King Arthur united his foes, Alex and Bedders form a tenuous truce with Lance (shades of Sir Lancelot) and Kay, as the quartet of classmates come under the tutelage of young Merlin for the eventual showdown with the dark side.
Alex and his own Knights of the Round Table make their last stand at Dungate Academy, enlisting the student body for a climactic showdown of good versus evil.
With an army of heroic kids, “The Kid Who Would Be King” plants its flag firmly in the camp of entertainment for adolescents. In that respect, the themes of courage and honor resonate for some energetic fun.