Justin and the Knights of Valor

 
Predictable animated swashbuckler with a few chuckles.
  • Review Date: July 14, 2014
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 2014
  • Running Time: 94 minutes

What parents need to know

Educational value

Meant to entertain, not educate.

Positive messages

Teamwork is a plus in overcoming adversity. Ordinary people can sometimes surprise with their heroism. A questionable but clearly stated message is: "If you go against your dad, you have to believe in yourself."

Positive role models

Justin, an ordinary young man, learns that he is capable of greatness. His good intentions and ultimate belief in himself enable him to be brave and resourceful. Lawyers and "the law" are particularly targeted in this movie, blamed for ruining the preferred "old" way of life -- of knights and valor and chivalry and beauty -- because they instituted rules and laws. Of course, the key lawyer who initiated the changes finally learns the error of his ways. Lots of stereotypes are included: A very effeminate (but still lethal) accomplice of the primary villain prances around eyeing "color" and "design;" a vain, self-absorbed rich girl dismisses a worthy suitor; and a preening knight believes he is a supreme gift to humankind.

Violence & scariness

Frequent cartoon action and violence: swordplay, crossbows, attacks by strongmen. A silly crocodile-like dragon wreaks comic havoc. Characters are pummeled, stabbed, thrown, chased, and captured, and they fall -- a villain plummets to his death.

Sexy stuff

One kiss.

Language

Insults are uttered in disgust: "pinhead," "idiots," "dunderheads." Some characters are the objects of laughter and derision. 

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Several scenes take place in a pub, with beer served in flagons. A leading character is a barmaid.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Justin and the Knights of Valor is a full-length animated film with some original songs. It takes place in medieval times with knights, ladies, wizards, and great villains, but in terms of jokes, characters, and some story elements, there is a modern sensibility (such as the inclusion of a stereotypically effeminate villain with a love of fashion; the young hero is torn between becoming a knight to save his kingdom or "going to law school"). There’s lots of comedy and plenty of cartoon action, including swordplay, stabbings, and a threatening fire; a villain falls to his death. A Spanish production with prominent English-speaking actors, this theatrical film was released internationally in 2013 but is making its American debut as direct-to-DVD.

What's the story?

Justin (Freddie Highmore) wants nothing more than to become a knight with the courage and wisdom of Sir Roland, his deceased grandfather. However, in JUSTIN AND THE KNIGHTS OF VALOR, times have changed in the kingdom. Justin's lawyer-dad (Alfred Molina) has enacted so many laws and rules that all the kingdom's subjects have given up on the spirit and altruism that defined their old way of life. Knights are long gone; the land is unprotected. On the verge of being forced to follow in his father's footsteps, Justin takes matters into his own hands. With his caring Gran (Julie Walters) encouraging him, he defies his father and sets off a quest: The boy will bring home Sir Roland's missing sword and earn his knighthood despite his dad. Justin’s journey is fraught with danger and features a dizzying array of friends and foes. Joined by feisty sidekick Talia (Saoirse Ronan), Justin trains, struggles to reach his potential, and ultimately becomes an unlikely hero, charged with saving his kingdom from a long-standing and treacherous enemy.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

It's always disappointing when an animated feature film that requires so much time, money, and creative energy misfires. This story is both predictable and derivative, much of the humor seems forced, and there are stereotypes a-plenty. Also, the sheer number of characters, events, and battles is unrelenting. A misguided father, the memory of a brave grandfather, a rich and spoiled damsel, three idiosyncratic "trainers," an evil knight and his sashaying accomplice, a barmaid, a barkeep, two ogre-like bouncers, a sorcerer, a kindly grandmother, a comic dragon-crocodile, and a preening cavalier (Antonio Banderas, who provides some real comic moments and is listed as a producer), all impact the plot. It's dense, loud, and sometimes confusing. Still, kids who like silliness, adventure, and a jam-packed story may find this movie entertaining. 

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about blending an adventure set in centuries past with characters and jokes that are very modern. Find some examples in this film. Why do you think it makes the movie funnier? 

  • Which villains are included in this movie to show danger and which are intended to get laughs? Were you ever confused by Justin's having so many foes?

  • What is a stereotype? Which of the characters in Justin and the Knights of Valor would fit the definition?

Movie details

DVD release date:July 22, 2014
Cast:Freddie Highmore, Antonio Banderas, Saoirse Ronan
Director:Manuel Sicilia
Studio:Kandor Graphics
Genre:Family and Kids
Topics:Misfits and underdogs
Run time:94 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:mild action and rude humor

This review of Justin and the Knights of Valor was written by

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Quality

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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