Reel Reviews

‘The Kid Who Would Be King’

Audience: A-II – adults


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A boy and his sword

The Arthurian legend gets an inventive updating in “The Kid Who Would Be King” (Fox), a thrilling adventure that casts schoolchildren as latter-day Knights of the Round Table, destined to save the world.

Borrowing heavily from the Harry Potter canon, with a dash of J.R.R. Tolkien and Disney’s “The Sword in the Stone” (1963) thrown in, writer-director Joe Cornish serves up that treasured Hollywood rarity: an entertaining, family-friendly film that skillfully blends in strong messages – in this case, about truth, justice and caring for others.

Not to be confused with the 1975 Kipling adaptation “The Man Who Would Be King,” this movie is set in modern-day Britain. It’s a land wracked by divisions, anxiety and political uncertainty (Brexit, anyone)?

Twelve-year-old Alex (Louis Ashbourne Serkis) has but one goal: to get through the school day without himself or his nerdy best friend, Bedders (Dean Chaumoo), being bullied by classmates. No such luck: after Alex stands up to two toughs, Lance (Tom Taylor) and Kaye (Rhianna Dorris), they give chase, determined to humiliate him.

Alex escapes through a hole in the fence surrounding a building site. There he’s amazed to find a shiny sword sticking up in a pile of rubble. He grasps the handle and pulls out the blade, unaware that the mythical Excalibur is now in his grasp, making him the new “king.”

Fabled wizard Merlin promptly arrives, a shape-shifter played alternatively as a fellow schoolboy (Angus Imrie) and a grizzled old man (Patrick Stewart). Merlin warns Alex that his success with the storied weapon has awakened the wicked enchantress Morgana le Fay (Rebecca Ferguson) in her subterranean lair – where she was imprisoned eons ago by her half-brother, King Arthur.

 In a mere four days, a solar eclipse will offer Morgana the chance to re-enter the world of the living. Alex has little time to assume the crown, recruit knights and raise an army.

“I’m supposed to stop that? That’s ridiculous -- I’m 12!” he tells Merlin.

Destiny will not be ignored, however, and under Merlin’s tutelage Alex begins by enlisting Bedders. He also reconciles with his enemies, hoping to benefit from Lance and Kaye’s brawn as well as their popularity. It’s no surprise that the names of the new band turn out to correspond to those of Arthur’s knights: Lance is Sir Lancelot, Kaye is Sir Kay, and Bedders is Sir Bedivere.

Our company of misfits embarks on an epic quest that takes them from London to Stonehenge and on to Arthur’s birthplace, the coastal village of Tintagel in Cornwall. Then it’s back to school where they must convince the entire student body to don armor and join the battle against Morgana’s zombie warriors (whose appearance may frighten younger viewers).

“If we fight together, evil doesn’t stand a chance,” Alex declares, validating Merlin’s observation that “there is an old soul in every child.”

The film contains potentially scary fantasy violence and two mild oaths. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II – adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG – parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

By Joseph McAleer, Catholic News Service

Copyright ©2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

‘The Upside’

Audience: A-III – adults


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Good acting, questionable themes

Based on the real relationship between a disabled man and his caregiver, “The Upside” (STX), takes hard swerves between comedy and drama, and also relies on the substantial, unflagging charisma of the two leads.

Kevin Hart is Dell, a recent parolee for various crimes who desperately needs employment to avoid returning to prison, and Bryan Cranston is Phillip, an uber-wealthy investment guru in a Park Avenue penthouse who is a quadriplegic as the result of a hang-gliding mishap and also a lonely widower.

Dell, of course, has no qualifications as a caregiver, and thinks he’s interviewing to be a janitor. Phillip, who hates being controlled, somehow finds Dell’s insouciance and flat-out ignorance refreshing. So off we go on an adventure of “connection,” with Phillip’s suspicious and genuinely caring executive, Yvonne (Nicole Kidman), hovering in the background.

Dell’s other motivation for newfound responsibility involves taking care of his estranged ex-wife, Latrice (Aja Naomi King), and their son, Anthony (Jahi Di’Allo Winston), who are living in crumbling public housing. And his old thieving habits, we see, are difficult to break at first.

There’s considerable learning ahead. Dell picks up quickly on Phillip’s love of opera and makes the connection to the singing of Aretha Franklin. In turn, he introduces Philip to marijuana and late-night fast-food binges, which are mostly an excuse to drive one of Philip’s luxury cars.

How many laughs can be extracted from Dell’s realization of what’s involved in changing a catheter? Let’s just say there’s an entire stand-up routine involved. Dell also later tries to help Phillip reconnect with romance.

The larger point of the film is that these two actors are having a very good time, Cranston with his dry observations and Hart performing his specialty of manic squeaky-voiced fear. So why can’t we all just enjoy the ride?

Well, because first of all, old stereotypes of race and class still have the power to hurt, and hurt deeply. Second, there’s a warped outlook here in which money solves all anxiety – and, in large quantities, even becomes morality itself. Such relationships often have the ability to inspire. But this one has strong echoes of the old plantation days in which the highest compliment given to a servant was, “We treated him like he was family!”

The film contains benignly viewed marijuana use, sexual humor and references and fleeting rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

By Kurt Jensen, Catholic News Service

Copyright ©2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Monthly List of Recent Film Ratings (June 2015)

CNS classifications: A-I: general patronage; A-II: adults and adolescents; A-III: adults; L: limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling; O: morally offensive.
MPAA ratings: G: general audiences. All ages admitted; PG: parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children; PG-13: parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13; R: restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian; NC-17: no one 17 and under admitted.

The Age of Adaline, A-III (PG-13)
Aloha, A-II (PG-13)
Avengers: Age of Ultron, A-III (PG-13)
The Awakening, A-III (R)
Begin Again, A-III (R)
Chappie, L (R)
Child 44, A-III (R)
Cinderella, A-I (PG)
The D Train, O (R)
Danny Collins, A-III (R)
The Divergent Series: Insurgent, A-III (PG-13)
Do You Believe?, A-II (PG-13)
Dream House, L (PG-13)
The DUFF, A-III (PG-13)
Ex Machina, O (R)
Far from the Madding Crowd, A-II (PG-13)
Focus, L (R)
Furious 7, A-III (PG-13)
Get Hard, O (R)
The Gunman, L (R)
Home, A-I (PG)
Hot Pursuit, A-III (PG-13)
It Follows, O (R)
Jupiter Ascending, A-III (PG-13)
Kingsman: The Secret Service, A-III (R)
The Last Exorcism Part II, L (PG-13)
The Lazarus Effect, A-III (PG-13)
Little Boy, A-II (PG-13)
The Longest Ride, A-III (PG-13)
Mad Max: Fury Road, L (R)
Marie's Story, A-II (not rated)
McFarland, USA, A-II (PG)
Monkey Kingdom, A-I (G)
Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, A-I (PG)
Pitch Perfect 2, A-III (PG-13)
Poltergeist, A-III (PG-13)
Project Almanac, A-III (PG-13)
The Pyramid, A-III (R)
Run All Night, L (R)
San Andreas, A-III (PG-13)
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, A-III (PG)
Seventh Son, A-II (PG-13)
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, A-I (PG)
Tomorrowland, A-II (PG)
The Trip to Italy, A-III (not rated)
True Story, A-III (R)
Unfinished Business, O (R)
Unfriended, O (R)
The Water Diviner, A-III (R)
Woman in Gold, A-II (PG-13)

Copyright (c) 2015 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops