It's been eight years since writer/director Joe Cornish burst onto the scene with Attack the Block. While he's been busy working with the likes of Edgar Wright and Steven Spielberg on the screenplays for Ant-Man and The Adventures of Tintin, The Kid Who Would Be King seems like an unusual choice for his return to the director's chair. Far more child-friendly than the 15-rated Block, Kid nevertheless exhibits many of the hallmarks of his previous film; great performances from child actors, a goofy tall skinny kid, Adam Buxton in some shape or form and a commitment to a making a fantastic concept feel as real as possible.
After fleeing school bullies on the way home, Alex Elliot happens into a building site ends up pulling a sword from a stone. Well, from a foundation block with rebar sticking out of it. Thinking it's just a ‘cool’ thing to have, it's not until he's attacked at night by a ‘Mortis Miles’, an undead soldier that looks like something straight out of Dark Souls that he begins to realise that might be more than a cool prop sword. It may well be the sword Excalibur, and thus Alex is the leader Britain needs in its time of need, (no, not Brexit), even if he is just 12 years old.
Teaming up with his best friend Bedders, those bullies from earlier and a hilarious goofy Merlin disguised as a lanky teen, Alex will need to find a way to defeat King Arthur's sister, Morgana, still lusting for the sword, before she escapes her prison deep beneath the earth and dooms the world to eternal slavery.
Put like that, Kid sounds like a ridiculous children's adventure, one that would seem at home in a cheap TV movie, but there's such a commitment to building the characters and the world around them, while utterly serious, that the film can't help but win you over. This is more than partially due to the child actor leads, with incredibly relatable performances from Louis Ashbourne Serkis (son of Andy) and Dean Chaumoo. Angus Imrie provides a neat take on an undercover, young, Merlin, occasionally sneezing into the form of Sir Patrick Stewart. All lanky awkwardness and portentous declarations, kids will be sure to be mimicking his wacky magical hand gestures leaving the cinema.
The cinematography by Bill Pope (The Matrix, Army of Darkness) and ethereal score by the Electric Wave Bureau also helps lend the film a unique atmosphere.
A lack of real threat on screen does leave the action feeling slightly weightless, but that's a complaint that could be equally levelled at The Goonies or E.T., the type of ‘80s children's movie free from adult supervision that Cornish seems to be, very successfully, paying tribute to.
With more than enough twists and surprises to keep adults engaged and a great message about standing up for yourself, The Kid Who Would Be King is a ridiculously good-natured tale for kids of all ages.
THE KID WHO WOULD BE KING / CERT:TBA / DIRECTOR: JOE CORNISH / SCREENPLAY: JOE CORNISH / STARRING: LOUIS ASHBOURNE SERKIS , DEAN CHAUMOO, ANGUS IMRIE, RHIANNA DORRIS, TOM TAYLOR, PATRICK STEWART, REBECCA FERGUSON / RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 15TH
Expected Rating: 6 out of 10