Tom Taylor

The Kid Who Would Be King

20/02/19

When I was just a nipper and there was such a thing as ‘Saturday Morning Pictures,’ I would often watch features from the Children’s Film Foundation. These were stories about gangs of plucky kids, coming together to solve a crime or save a theatre or take on invading aliens – you name it. I mention this mostly because there’s something about The Kid Who Would Be King that rather reminds me of those films – albeit this time with the advantage of a sixty-million-dollar budget.

Joe Cornish made an impressive directorial debut with Attack the Block seven years ago and, after some messing about in Hollywood, he’s gone back to an idea he first came up with as a teenager, and which has been bubbling around in his head ever since.

This is the story of Alex (Louis Ashbourne Serkis), a mild mannered twelve-year-old, who, together with his best mate, Bedders (Dean Chambo), is the subject of bullying at his secondary school, mostly at the hands of Lance (Tom Taylor) and Kaye (Rhianna Doris). (The bullying, by the way, is the unconvincing sort you only ever see in movies – holding somebody upside down to shake the coins from his pockets, etc.) One night, chased into a building site by his oppressors, Alex finds an old sword embedded in a stone and easily plucks it out. Pretty soon, he’s approached by Merlin (played by Angus Imrie and, occasionally Sir Patrick Stewart), who informs him that he is now ‘the once and future king,’ and that ‘divided Britain’ is at the mercy of evil witch, Morgana (Rebecca Ferguson) and her armies of the undead. Only a hero of epic proportions can save the world from disaster. By the way, those who think they are spotting a Brexit allegory here should be aware that Cornish claims it’s just a coincidence. You decide.

The film has a pleasing, amiable feel about it with plenty of in-jokes mixed in with the admittedly impressive action sequences. For the most part, it works a treat. If there’s an occasional tendency towards mawkishness, well, those bits are mercifully brief and soon enough, we’re flung headlong back into the action.

However, though the legions of flaming skeleton knights are initially pretty impressive, they are perhaps somewhat overused. A final confrontation between a bunch of school kids and the forces of darkness feels unnecessarily protracted and I think TBWWBK could easily had shed thirty minutes in the telling to ensure it keeps a firmer grip on an audience’s attention. I also can’t help feeling a little bit sorry for Rebecca Ferguson, chained to a wall for half the movie and spending the rest of it morphing into a hideous lizard-like monster. Well, that’s show business.

But quibbles aside, this is a film that is squarely aimed at a young audience, who will surely enjoy its deft blend of thrills, chills and chuckles. So it’s somewhat disappointing to note that at the afternoon performance we attend, there are perhaps only two kids in the rather sparse crowd. The film has already had a disappointing showing at the American box office where Arthurian mythology doesn’t mean an awful lot to the average viewer. It would be nice to see this do a whole lot better here.

If you have youngsters in need of entertainment, get them to a screening of this before it turns into an owl and flies away.

4 Stars

Philip Caveney

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The Comedy Store

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24/06/16

We have rarely been in such dire need of a good laugh.

It’s June 24th and we’ve recently heard about Brexit. There’s a sense of gathering doom in the air, so we decide to head down to the Comedy Store in a desperate search for something to lighten the mood. Luckily, we’ve chosen the right night to do it as this is hands-down, the best gig we’ve seen here in a very long time.

Our compere for the evening is John Maloney, who I haven’t seen before. He’s clearly in no mood to take prisoners and deals harshly with the members of an over-enthusiastic stag party who keep shouting out inappropriate comments through his introduction. Before much longer, the ringleaders are led out by a couple of bouncers and they don’t return. Maloney offers some spectacularly crude observations about married life that stay just the right side of funny.

The first act proper is John Warburton, an affable, bespectacled comic with a nice line in audience participation. He soon has the crowd on his side and laughing along with him as he takes us through a protracted piece about how his wife gave him the ‘wonderful gift’ of a new pregnancy for his birthday – trouble is, he was expecting an iPhone. There’s also a surreal story about potatoes purchased from Aldi, which turn feral and take control of his kitchen. The story finally culminates in a terrible joke – but it was great fun getting there.

Next up there’s a ten minute slot from relative newbie, Tom Taylor. He’s a revelation, shambling on with an electric keyboard under his arm, gurning and giggling neurotically, fiddling endlessly with a microphone stand and delivering a series of quirky little songs, with playfully clunky lyrics. He’s absolutely brilliant. Could this character-driven comedy work over a longer set? Probably, particularly if he’s got other personae hidden up his sleeve. But for the ten minutes he’s on, he has everyone laughing fit to bust and goes straight into the file marked ‘one to watch.’

Zoe Lyons is up next and her confident and assured set confirms that this is going to be a very good night indeed. Her scattershot subjects include her reluctance to share food in tapas bars, trying to pack a suitcase in Amsterdam, whilst stoned and her recent experiences in the beauty department of Harvey Nichols. “What is your daily cleansing routine?” she’s asked by one ‘beauty consultant. ‘Well, I look in the mirror in the morning and if there’s no egg on my chin, no gravy in my eyebrows and no vomit in my hair, I’m good to go!’ Priceless. Great too, to see a female comic in a venue that doesn’t always feature its fair share of women performers.

After a short break to top up our alcohol levels, there’s a beautifully crafted set from Paul Sinha, who as well as being a stand up comedian, also plays a role as a ‘Catcher’ on the TV quiz show, The Chase. (He also does a cracking radio programme called History Revision, which is definitely worth seeking out online.) Sinha’s comedy is clever and incisive, built around his self-proclaimed role as the UKs only gay-Asian-quiz-show-host-stand-up with a predilection for rough sex with aggressive Northern men. He tells us he’ll be in his element tonight, getting a cab back to his hotel. Excellent stuff.

On any other night, headliner Jarred Christmas would have been considered a triumph, but after the embarrassment of riches we’ve already enjoyed, his set feels somehow like a bit of an anti-climax. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing to fault in his delivery and his frenetic, super-charged persona, it’s just that much of the material he employs here (the potential minefield of being a parent, for instance) seems a little over familiar. But when the night’s most underwhelming act still manages to qualify as ‘pretty good’ you know you’ve attended a great show. The Comedy Store doesn’t always live up to its much-vaunted reputation, but tonight, when it was sorely needed, happily, it did.

4.6 stars

Philip Caveney