I know I say this a lot, but video games have ruined adventure cinema. The Kid Who Would Be King is less a movie than a 2 hour demo script for an underdeveloped video game. No, its not even that. The Kid Who Would Be King is a 2 hour demo reel for Louis Ashbourne Serkis, 14-year-old son of Andy Serkis (Gollum in Lord of the Rings).
Alex Elliott (Serkis) is a mildly overweight nerd whose only friend is Bedders (Dean Chaumoo), a nebbish puppy dog who follows Alex around like his life depends on it. At school, they’re targeted by Lance (Tom Taylor) and Kaye (Rihanna Doris), a diverse pair of bullies who pick fights and chase after our two heroes. One night, after being chased into a construction site, Alex stumbles across the sword Excalibur and pulls it out of the concrete stone in which it has been embedded. In doing so, he awakens Morgana, a relatively naked witch who has been embedded in a pile of roots in hell, and signals
Navi Merlin, a naked teenager who can transform into Patrick Stewart and an owl.
So begins our tale of King Arthur and the now-diverse-but-lacking-any-backstory-whatsoever knights of the round table. It takes 40 long, excruciating minutes to set up the story and that’s before we get to the now-requisite opening battle-that-must-be-lost-so-that-you-can-be-told-you’re-the-hero-and-have-to-power-up-before-fighting-the-final-boss. This movie is so into its video game logic, it uses a heal potion in one of the battle scenes. Merlin, for no apparent reason, can only appear during the daytime, and even explicitly sets our four knights up with a tutorial battle.
THIS IS A MOVIE THAT HAS A TUTORIAL. I’m not talking about a training montage. This is purely a tutorial to learn how to swordfight.
If that doesn’t sound lazy enough, Patrick Stewart only has 3 scenes, and looks less like Merlin and more like he was called at 6am, told to be on set at 6:30, didn’t get a stylist, and did all of his scenes in one day. Patrick Stewart looks more refined when he was fostering Ginger. But, since we know that Patrick Stewart has a lovely chrome dome, this homeless look is ACTUALLY the look they were going for.
I just, I can’t even with this movie. It has some nice message about how power tells tales to keep people separated, and we have to stick together with truth to undo evil. But, then you realize that everybody is coming together under a straight white male and only the straight white males are given any agency in the story. The Lady of the Lake is reduced to a disembodied hand that can turn up in any body of water. Kaye is just a sycophant to Lance. Bedders is just a sycophant to Alex. The big bad is a woman. Meanwhile, Lance, Merlin, and Alex all have agency and great qualities.
This movie also runs a full 120 minutes. While that would be a nice length for a video game demo with only two types of bad guys outside of the boss levels, it is entirely too long and too slow for a children’s action movie with a simplistic plot and bad morality. Let me put that length into context for you:
One can speedrun the original The Legend of Zelda in 37 minutes. You can complete 100% of The Legend of Zelda 2 in just over an hour.
The Princess Bride – 98 minutes
Mac and Me – 99 minutes
Labyrinth – 101 minutes
The NeverEnding Story – 107 minute
The Last Starfighter – 108 minutes
Explorers – 109 minutes
Goonies – 114 minutes
The Kid Who Would Be King – 120 minutes
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial – 121 minutes
First Knight – 134 minutes
Excalibur – 140 minutes
The Kid Who Would Be King is too long, too slow, too underwritten, too underdeveloped, and too boring to be any good. The biggest surprise is that it was directed by Joe Cornish, who turned Attack the Block into an 88 minute sci-fi action movie with a pulse. The Kid Who Would Be King is 2 hours of attention-free babysitting for your kids.