After 12 year old Alex (Louis Ashbourne Serkis) removes a sword from a stone, it doesn't take him long to realise this is THE sword from THE stone. In other words, he has discovered Excalibur. When the evil sorceress Morgana (Rebecca Ferguson) awakens and hatches a plan to shroud the world in darkness, Alex must gather his school mates to form his Knights of the Round Table. With the help of Merlin the wizard (Angus Imrie, Patrick Stewart), the youngsters embark on an epic quest to save the world.
Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table haven't exactly translated to modern cinema particularly effectively. The underwhelming Keira Knightley-starring 'King Arthur' in 2004 and Guy Ricthie's box office flop 'King Arthur: Legend of the Sword' come to mind. 'The Kid Who Would Be King' essentially tells the story from a kid's perspective, with a young audience being its target. The result has issues but is generally watchable, though older audiences will become bored, particularly during act three.
Lead Louis Ashbourne Serkis, son of Andy Serkis, proves a talented young actor and a sweet, likeable lead. Newcomer Dean Chaumoo is also lovely as best friend Bedders. In the antagonist, Rebecca Ferguson is perfection, effortlessly capturing the sinister, witchy nature of Morgana. As for the other big name in the cast the grown-ups came for - Sir Patrick Stewart - be warned that he features very, very little. Merlin more often takes the part of a teenager, played by Angus Imrie (more nepotism here, being the son of actress Celia Imrie), who is initially quite annoying and oafish, but grows on you with time.
While not as inspired or fresh as 'The Goonies' or 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone', 'The Kid Who Would Be King' recalls both in tone, providing a classic adventure film led by kid protagonists. Moreover, at one point, Merlin teaches the children the chivalric code, which stresses being mannerly, honest, respectful and honourable, as well as following through with commitments. These are important qualities to impart to young audiences, and as 'old-fashioned' as they may seem, would make today's world so much better if practised more widely.
At 2 hours, the film is too long and it's a shame that the focus moves away from Merlin and the four lead children for the movie's final act. Children will probably stay engaged in anticipation for the big battle. Adults may feel free to nap at this point - we all know what's coming.