Review: Justin and the Knights of Valour / Cert: U / Director: Manuel Sicilia / Screenplay: Matthew Jacobs, Manuel Sicilia / Starring: Antonio Banderas, Rupert Everett, Freddie Highmore / Release Date: February 3rd
Shrek alumni Antonio Banderas and Rupert Everett reunite in another fantasy world for another tale of an unlikely hero stepping up to the plate to save the day. As times change and Shrek diluted his profitability with a series of declining sequels (the brilliant second film aside), DreamWorks' How to Train Your Dragon is the reference point here.
Justin and the Knights of Valour certainly looks the part, set in a lush green fantasy world occupied by dragons, barbarians and curiously busty barmaids. Its cast is strong too (literally, in the case of baddie Mark Strong), with Freddie Highmore doing well as young Justin. He's well supported by Banderas (the best thing in it), Everett (the second best thing in it), Charles Dance and the like. Almost everyone appears to be coasting on established routines – particularly Mark Strong, who adds yet another humourless posh villain to his CV. Only Saoirse Ronan is outright bad, her Irish accent a pain to the ears. Odd, given that the accent is actually the actress's own.
The lack of inspiration carries through to the plot and script, which lack both excitement and wit. Only a mid-flight fight sequence with Gustav the crocodile is of amusement, the rest of the story veering between Stardust rip-off and DreamWorks wannabe. Without the heart of Pixar and the wit of DreamWorks, Justin and the Knights of Valour is left entirely middling, the script barely managing to raise more than a smile throughout (usually succeeding only when Banderas is about).
The Blu-ray is available both in 2D and 3D, so you've a choice of dimensions to be underwhelmed in. It also comes loaded with a series of production and making-of featurettes, as well as deleted scenes and cast and crew interviews. Sadly, with the film itself failing to ignite audience interest, it's unlikely that anyone will ever bother to watch them.
Too dull for children and not clever enough for adult audiences, Justin and the Knights of Valour is a failure. Thoroughly average, the only thing of valiance here is Antonio Banderas's film-salvaging performance.
Extras: See above