Running away from bullies, young teen Alex (Louis Ashbourne Serkis) stumbles upon the legendary Sword in the Stone. Pulling Excalibur from the stone, the youth is now tasked with saving the present-day world from the evil enchantress Morgana (Rebecca Ferguson), who was powerful during the reign of King Arthur and is ready to rise with her army to rule mankind. With the help of Merlin (Patrick Stewart), now transformed into a nerdy youth (Angus Imrie), Alex must convince friends and foes to become knights in his quest to stop the malevolent sorceress.

A mostly youthful cast energizes this inventive update of the mythical sword legend. Director/writer Joe Cornish deftly keeps
this fast-paced modern adventure alive and kicking. His only other theatrical feature was the alien invasion hit "Attack the Block" (2011), starring Star Wars' John Boyega and Doctor Who's Jodie Whittaker in early lead roles. Once again, he has cast relative unknowns. Most of the weight falls on the shoulders of young Louis Ashbourne Serkis, the son of performance capture actor Andy Serkis. He carries it well, making Alex someone to care about. For comic relief, Dean Chaumoo provides a few laughs as Alex's bullied best friend Bedders and Angus Imrie vigorously snaps his fingers (in a most humorous way) to cast spells as Merlin's nerdish teen form when he's not an owl. Tom Taylor and Rhianna Dorris portray school bullies Lance and Kaye (nods to Sirs Lancelot and Kay), who get caught up in the confrontation. Adding bankable star power are Patrick Stewart as the aging Merlin in a Led Zeppelin t-shirt and Rebecca Ferguson as the threatening Morgana in a minimum of scenes. The sets and special effects range from good to cheesy, with most of the budget visible in the final battle where the sorceress becomes a dragon - shades of Disney's "Sleeping Beauty". There are elements of several films present, including a Ray Harryhausen-style fight. A funny round table sequence, the Lady of the Lake and Excalibur teach a bit of enchanting Arthurian history while saying something about the state of affairs in today's world. A few scary moments may disturb the smaller children and the plot is easy to figure out as the film advances. "The Kid Who Would Be King" takes the crown as magical family entertainment. (3/5 CAMS)

Rated PG (for fantasy action violence, scary images, thematic elements including some bullying, and language)
Running Time: 120 minutes

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