Merlin: The Return

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Merlin: The Return Movie Poster Image
Clumsy, low-budget King Arthur story is mostly harmless.
  • NR
  • 2001
  • 90 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

A pair of kids helps save the world, struggling against terrible odds and triumphing in the end.

Positive Role Models & Representations
The movie features two brave, helpful kids -- a boy and a girl -- who join forces with Merlin to help save the world. Merlin himself, despite being a little silly, is still a fairly admirable character, as are King Arthur and Sir Lancelot (although parents should remember that Lancelot has had an affair with King Arthur's wife Guinevere; this story takes place after those events).
The movie features some fantasy violence. There are some scary attacks from some ghostly skeleton creatures, and we see several sword fights, with stabbing and a little blood. Mordred attacks a female character, attempting to choke her. In a scary ritual, innocent people are turned into the scary skeleton creatures. Some of the good guys get stabbed in battle.
In one scene, a brooding Mordred sits surrounded by women who rub his arms and shoulders. After a few seconds, he gets up and storms off. There is some brief discussion of the affair that Sir Lancelot had with King Arthur's wife Guinevere, though it's discussed in terms of love rather than sex.
"Damn" and "my God" are heard a couple of times each. Characters are called "stupid." Characters also tell others to "shut up" or "put a sock in it."
A Game Boy is mentioned and shown. Kids are seen sharing a Coca-Cola. A Coca-Cola refrigerated display case also is shown.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Merlin: The Return is a U.K. feature that was released directly to video in the United States. It takes place mostly in the present day, with all the familiar characters from King Arthur's universe trying to navigate modern times. The movie seems to have been made with kids in mind, though it still features sword fighting, stabbing, some blood, and some scary skeleton creatures. There's a shot of several women rubbing and touching Mordred, and some discussion of the extramarital affair between Lancelot and Guinevere (which is referred to in terms of love rather than sex). Language includes a couple of uses of "damn" and "my God." Kids are seen drinking Coca-Cola, with a Coca-Cola display case on view. A Game Boy is shown. This movie feels very low-budget and clumsy, but it's also inoffensive and might please younger viewers who are interested in King Arthur's legend.

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What's the story?

In MERLIN: THE RETURN, for 1,500 years, the great wizard Merlin (Rik Mayall) has been keeping tabs on the evil Mordred (Craig Sheffer), who has been banished to another dimension. Unfortunately, a self-serving modern-day scientist (Tia Carrere) has found a way to let Mordred out. So Merlin enlists the help of some old friends, King Arthur (Patrick Bergin), Sir Lancelot (Adrian Paul), and Guinevere (Julie Hartley). Meanwhile, an American boy, Richie (Byron Taylor), and his new English friend Kate (Leigh Greyvenstein) lend a hand in helping to save the world. Can Mordred be defeated this time?

Is it any good?

This movie looks chintzy, doesn't often make any sense, and frequently suffers from poor visual effects, unfunny jokes, and stagnant battle scenes. Writer/director Paul Matthews likely was hampered by a small budget and possibly a lack of skill. Actors such as Craig Sheffer and Tia Carrere, who have been decent elsewhere, come across as fairly hammy, and comic actor Rik Mayall seems an odd choice for Merlin. He never seems sure whether he wants to be heroic or crack a joke.
The plot doesn't seem to come from anywhere. It's not clear what the scientist hopes to achieve by freeing Mordred, nor is it clear what he's going to do when he's freed. It's also not clear what everyone is still doing alive after 1,500 years. But, aside from all this nonsense, Merlin: The Return is far from annoying or aggressive. It's actually fairly inoffensive and harmless, and a certain kind of young viewer might actually enjoy it.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Merlin: The Return's violence and scary creatures. Is it too intense for kids? Does it help or hinder the story?
  • What went on between King Arthur's wife Guinevere and Sir Lancelot? Did they betray King Arthur? Did they try to hurt him on purpose? How would you feel in the same situation?
  • Does the movie put the younger characters in any danger? Is the story more exciting or more interesting with younger, more modern characters in it?
  • Does this movie make you want to learn more about the legend of King Arthur?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy and adventure

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