Today’s filmmakers routinely inject progressive messages into their product.
Sometimes it’s as overt as “Vice,” a movie dedicated to destroying the GOP.
It also can be infinitely more subtle. Look no further than Netflix’s “Bird Box.” The apocalyptic thriller stops cold mid-movie to mock President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.
So it’s stunning to sit through “The Kid Who Would Be King” and find the story hinging on socially conservative values.
Loyalty. Honesty. Friendship. Heroism. Heck, you could even say the film shreds “toxic masculinity,” albeit when it flows from the film’s pre-teen lead.
Young Alex (Louis Ashbourne Serkis, son of motion capture pioneer Andy Serkis) discovers first hand the horrors of school bullying. Fleeing two persistent bullies leads him to discover a sword jutting out of a concrete slab.
One pull later, and Alex wonders if he’s found the mythical Excalibur. If so, he’ll need it. Strange creatures are suddenly on his trail, and he must assemble friend and foe alike to fulfill his unexpected destiny.
And let’s hope there’s a round table somewhere on his block.
Yes, it’s the umpteenth spin on King Arthur, this time focused on the kiddie set. Just don’t think “The Kid Who Would Be King” is another “drop the lads off and scram” feature. It’s a hoot for young and old, squeaky clean but rigorously told.
The tale’s “missing father” subplot connects the generations, too, if might make some younger viewers reach for some Kleenex.
“Kid” remains a good 15 minutes too long, and that’s being kind. Otherwise, it’s an unabashed treat. Alex’s friend quotient is a key reason why.
— The Kid Who Would Be King (@KidWouldBeKing) January 20, 2019
We meet a young, spindly Merlin (Angus Imrie) who casts a spell with a series of comic hand chops. Schoolyard chum Bedders (Dean Chaumoo) compares himself to the “Lord of the Rings” heroes. And he may have a point.
Kaye and Lance (Rhianna Dorris, Tom Taylor) are the bullies with more substance than we expect. They’re both excellent, but so is everyone in the cast. We’ll extend those kindnesses to Patrick Stewart, who pops up a few times in a silly role that still makes us grin.
The movie mistakenly pushes its villain, Morgana (Rebecca Ferguson), to the sidelines for far too long. And the film’s first “ending” suggests a smarter production that knew when to call it quits.
Still, writer/director Joe Cornish (“Attack the Block”) won’t talk down to the wee ones. His tale touches on more than bullying. The setting is a world on fire, where dictators and toxic behavior alike power the nightly news.
Cornish’s solution? Kindness, decency and the kind of values that can help culture survive the very worst of storms. Ye olde King Arthur morality.
He ladles those talking points into the movie as a way of pushing the narrative forward. You won’t need to squint to see it, but adult audiences won’t mind a bit.
FAST FACT: Director Joe Cornish was attached, along with Edgar Wright, to the “Ant Man” film project before they parted ways with Marvel.
You could argue Cornish and co. simply duplicated the moral virtues of the source material. Sure. Only how many times do filmmakers ditch said source to “modernize” a movie? Remember when “A Wrinkle in Time” threw Christianity into the waste basket?
Humor abounds in “Kid,” the kind rooted in character, not pop culture references or other easy layups. That alone makes “The Kid Who Would Be King” worth the proverbial price of admission.
HiT or Miss: “The Kid Who Will Be King” demands an edit or three. Otherwise, it’s a fine adventure for young viewers with lessons adults will flat-out cheer.