This Is a Movie Review: ‘The Kid Who Would Be King’ is a Goofy and Honorable Rendition of the King Arthur Legend

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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

 

This Is a Movie Review: I Saw ‘The Dark Tower’ – Please Send Help

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This review was originally posted on News Cult in August 2017.

Starring: Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor

Director: Nikolaj Arcel

Running Time: 95 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Gunslinging and Fire Beasts

Release Date: August 4, 2017

Unlike most bloated modern blockbusters, The Dark Tower keeps it under two hours, clocking in at a merciful 95 minutes. Unfortunately, that is the best thing about it. Within the first 10 minutes of this dud, and for the remaining 85 thereafter, my primary thought was, “Well, at least it is going to be over soon.” This adaptation of Stephen King’s long-running series of novels could benefit from an extended runtime, as it would allow room to actually explain what the hell is going on, but that could only improve it so much, as its problems run much deeper than narrative confusion.

The crowd I saw it with applauded at the end, and several other times throughout, so perhaps if you’re a Dark Tower aficionado (do you call yourselves “gunslingers”?), it might work for you, but for the uninitiated, there is no effort to explain character motivations or the rules that govern this world. The point of this whole adventure is saving the titular structure, as its destruction would lead to the extinction of all existence. Roland (Idris Elba), a gunslinger, is trying to protect it, but he is stuck in an epic interdimensional struggle with Walter (Matthew McConaughey), aka the Man in Black, a sorcerer who wants to … destroy the tower? Or control it? Or just accumulate power in general? The fight between these two has possibly been lasting for centuries, or maybe just hours. The stakes between them seem especially personal, but they do not need to be, considering that Walter’s villainy is all-encompassing.

Sucked up into all this, for no clearly discernible reason, is young Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor). Jake does not really fit the Chosen One fantasy trope, mostly because he barely registers as a character as all. His presence in this conflict is mostly accidental. He has “the shine,” a psychic ability found in many of King’s works, which allows him to observe interdimensional goings-on in his dreams but does not make him particularly interesting.

The Dark Tower manages to wring out a few decent stabs at humor, thanks to Roland’s fish-out-of-water presence when Jake whisks him away to Earth. He asks “what breed?” when told he is eating a hot dog and pops a whole cocktail of painkillers like they’re candy. Most pointedly, Jake assures him that he is going to love Earth, due to its much easier availability of bullets than Roland is used to. But it occasionally feels like he should have a better idea of what is going on, or maybe he should have no idea at all. If you told me that Roland had visited Earth 100 times previously, or never, both possibilities would sound just as believable.

Something resembling laughter also comes from King’s knack for inexplicable dialogue, which is relentless throughout. The Dark Tower epitomizes the sort of complicated story that makes perfect sense to the people telling it but leaves no guidance for outsiders to find their way in.

The Dark Tower is Recommended If You Like: Stephen King’s awkward dialogue, Administering the autopsy on a box office disaster

Grade: 1.5 out of 5 Magics