Star Rating:

Justin and the Knights of Valour

Director: Manuel Sicilia

Actors: Julie Walters, Antonio Banderas, Freddie Highmore, Olivia Williams, Mark Strong

Release Date: Monday 30th November -0001

Genre(s): Animation

Running time: 96 minutes

There appears to be four distinct types of animation movies being made en masse at the moment. First, there are the visually dazzling but essentially hollow animated movies that hope to coast by on the star power involved, see: Shark's Tale, Madagascar, Megamind. Secondly, there are the visually dazzling but hugely funny and/or smart and/or involving animated movies that are instant classics of the genre, see: 90% of Pixar's output, How To Train Your Dragon. Thirdly, there are the movies that manage to mix the star power of the first and the entertaining nature of the second, see: Despicable Me 2, Kung Fu Panda 2. And finally, there's the kind of animated movie that fails in almost every department, no real mega-star names attached, no real visual inventiveness, no real humour or intelligence or heart. Unfortunately, Justin & The Knights Of Valour falls ass-first into this category.

Justin (voiced by Freddie Highmore with all the emotional resonance of a particularly apathetic sat-nav) wants to be a famous knight just like his Grandad, but they have been made illegal by the Queen (Olivia Williams) and her second-in-command Reginald (Alfred Molina), who also happens to be Justin's dad. So he runs away to a knight school, and along the way runs into feisty love-interest Talia (Saoirse Ronan), schizophrenic magician Melquiades (David Walliams, porting over a voice from Little Britain), camp and fashion conscious bad guy Sota (not exactly shock casting with Rupert Everett) and fake hero Sir Clorex (Antonio Banderas, essentially playing a human version of Puss In Boots). Meanwhile, the last of the great knights Heraclio (Mark Strong) is building an army to take over from the Queen and making being a knight legal again.

It's actually quite difficult to understand how anyone, at any time, thought making this movie was a good idea. The story is dreadfully dull, and not one that any kids should find interesting. All of the characters take to talking to themselves as a form of exposition, and none of the voice acting is particularly good. Everything is coloured a very dull shade of grey or green or brown, like nobody noticed that the colouring artist was, in fact, colour blind.

The whole movie just kind of sits there, like a direct-to-TV special you'd see on Nickelodeon at 2pm on a Tuesday afternoon for kids who are home sick from school and can't find the remote to change the channel. Which are really the only circumstances under which this movie should be watched.