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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Kid Who Would Be King is a modernized twist on the Arthurian legend of the sword in the stone. It centers on a relatable, regular English schoolboy named Alex (Louis Ashbourne Serkis), who's chosen to wield Excalibur and save the world. The movie is tween friendly (it's kind of like The Goonies crossed with Lord of the Rings), but families with younger kids should be aware that the villains -- evil Morgana (Rebecca Ferguson) and her minions -- are creepy, dark, and quite scary. Several violent battles/confrontations involve the destruction of a school, tense chases and pursuits, gouts of fire, and lots of swordfighting/weapons and close-range combat. While none of the kids is seriously injured, there are plenty of close calls. Characters also argue and deal with fairly intense bullying. There are a few uses of words like "damn," "hell," and "oh my God," as well as insults ("ignorant buffoon," etc.), but nothing overly salty. One character briefly walks around naked, but nothing at all graphic is shown. Families will be able to discuss several positive messages in the story, including teamwork, perseverance, courage, loyalty, and more.
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What's the story?
THE KID WHO WOULD BE KING opens with an animated overview of the Arthurian legend, quickly getting viewers up-to-date on King Arthur; his evil sister, Morgana; the wizard Merlin; the Knights of the Round Table; and the importance of the magical sword Excalibur. The action then switches to modern-day England, where 12-year-old Alex (Louis Ashbourne Serkis) saves his best friend, Bedders (Dean Chaumoo), from their school's two biggest bullies: slightly older Lance (Tom Taylor) and Kaye (Rhianna Dorris). After running away from the bullies, Alex ends up falling into a construction site and sees a dusty old sword stuck in a stone, which he manages to dislodge. The appearance of Excalibur brings Merlin (Angus Imrie), in teen form, to Alex's town. The odd, lanky teen explains that Alex is the new true king -- and that he will need to rally a group of fighters to defeat the wicked Morgana (Rebecca Ferguson), who's gaining strength to resurface and reclaim not only the sword, but all of Great Britain, as her birthright.
Is it any good?
Director Joe Cornish gives Arthurian legend a modern, crowd-pleasing twist in this version by choosing a kind, courageous "everyboy" to be the once and future king. Ashbourne Serkis (actor-director Andy's youngest child) plays Alex as an earnest, brave 12-year-old who can't quite believe that the magical sword belongs to him. The diverse group of kids who end up battling evil has a certain kinship to the ensemble in Cornish's clever (and decidedly more grown-up) debut, Attack the Block -- except, here, instead of aliens, these kids are trying to defeat a medieval sorceress who's trying to take over the United Kingdom.
The film is slightly longer than it needs to be, but Alex's drive to do what's right is charming, and the young Merlin's quirkiness (don't be surprised if young viewers attempt his constant snapping and clapping) is endearing. Patrick Stewart makes a few appearances as the "old" version of Merlin, adding an extra layer of legitimacy to the proceedings. The sword training and fight sequences are just violent enough to feel edgy, but they're not so dark that older elementary-aged viewers won't be able to handle them. Kids will be delighted by the young knights' adventures, and parents will appreciate how the Arthurian code promotes truth-telling, honoring loved ones, and perseverance. There's also an admirable theme of turning rivals (in this case, the bullies) into allies with empathy and kindness. In a world with too many divisions, that's a message that everyone should internalize.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in The Kid Who Would Be King. Is it necessary to the story? Does fantasy violence affect viewers differently than realistic violence? How much scary stuff can kids handle?
How does the film portray bullies and bullying? Does it feel realistic? What drives the bullies to change their ways? Do you think you could stand up for a friend the way Alex does for Bedders?
If you're familiar with other books or movies about King Arthur and Excalibur, how do you think this version stacks up?
What do you think of the message that people can be born of humble means and still be extraordinary?
- In theaters: January 25, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: April 16, 2019
- Cast: Louis Ashbourne Serkis, Angus Imrie, Rebecca Ferguson
- Director: Joe Cornish
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Friendship
- Character Strengths: Courage, Empathy, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 120 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: fantasy action violence, scary images, thematic elements including some bullying, and language
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Seal
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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