CREDIT: Kerry Brown/Twentieth Century Fox

This review was originally published on News Cult in January 2019.

Starring: Louis Ashbourne Serkis, Dean Chaumoo, Angus Imrie, Patrick Stewart, Rebecca Ferguson, Tom Taylor, Rhianna Doris, Denise Gough

Director: Joe Cornish

Running Time: 132 Minutes

Rating: PG for Some Creepy Dark Magic and Middle School Bullying

Release Date: January 25, 2019

In the course of human history, it is always the children’s time to inherit the Earth. Thus, if all is right, then every generation gets the re-telling of the Arthurian legend it deserves. Not only does The Kid Who Would Be King deliver on this front as entertainment, but it is also about how young people, however modest their origins, can rise up to prove themselves and be upright, inspiring leaders. Middle schooler Alex (Louis Ashbourne Serkis) randomly stumbles upon a sword at a construction site, so he pulls it out of a stone and takes it home, totally unaware that it is the legendary Excalibur. He soon finds himself embroiled in a generations-long fight against Arthur’s sister Morgana le Fay (Rebecca Ferguson) as she uses dark magic to take over the world. He teams up with his best friend Bedders (Dean Chaumoo) and converts some school bullies into allies, rendering the whole affair a lot more noble than you might expect a kid-friendly version of this story to be.

The biggest, and certainly showiest, highlight (as is the case in so many King Arthur stories) is Merlin (Angus Imrie), who here takes the form of a skinny young lad, as he is a wizard with a bit of a reputation for aging backwards. (Patrick Stewart occasionally pops in to play his older version, partly to look the part to anyone who doubts he is an actual ancient wizard.) There are some fish-out-of-water gags that really hit the spot, as Merlin disguises himself as a new schoolmate of Alex’s, declaring himself a “normal, contemporary British schoolboy.” Then there is the mesmerizing way he conjures spells, which is a basically a series of combinations of jazz hands and finger snaps. Imrie must be some sort of champion finger-snapper. Basically, if you like your Excalibur stories to feature jokes about how fast food consists of beetle blood, crushed animal bones, and beaver urine as well as lessons about living according to a code of honor, decency, and bravery, then The Kid Who Would Be King is just what you need.

The Kid Who Would Be King is Recommended If You Like: A Kid in King Arthur’s Court, The Goonies, Thor

Grade: 3 out of 5 Finger Snaps