Justin and the Knights of Valour (2013)

Justin and the Knights of Valour (2013)

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"Sorry, what was your name again?"
“Sorry, what was your name again?”

Twitter Plot Summary: Excessive legislation means knights are banned. But Justin wants to be one. So er, he goes off to train and stuff.

Genre: Animation/Adventure

Director: Manuel Sicilia

Key Cast: Freddie Highmore, Saoirse Ronan, Antonio Banderas, James Cosmo, Michael Culkin, Charles Dance, Tamsin Egerton, Rupert Everett, Stephen Hughes, Barry Humphries, Lloyd Hutchinson, Alfred Molina, Mark Strong, David Walliams, Julie Walters, Olivia Williams

Five Point Summary:

1. Excessive legislation is the problem, not the knights!
2. Charles Dance – evil villain mode enabled.
3. Sota – gloriously OTT. Much needed.
4. Training montage! Let me just crank up the Rocky theme.
5. Inevitable showdown, inevitable finale.

Knights have been outlawed in a kingdom more concerned with bureaucracy than the defence of the realm. This is a problem because a former knight of the realm has plans to create an army and take the crown for himself. With no army and no knights of their own, the kingdom appears doomed. Thankfully for the kingdom, young wannabe knight Justin decides to train up as a knight because they’re good roles models and all that jazz. Justin’s father doesn’t want him to go ahead with this – the last knight of the realm was Justin’s grandfather and there’s history there to explain why Justin’s father wants to keep him safe at home. This element of the story I liked – the characters have depth, there are reasons for why they do what they do, and there’s a relevant backstory that ties into current events. So far, so good. Then, for no apparent reason, it loses its way.

Even for the younger audience, for whom this is intended, there is little to recommend. There is almost nothing in terms of adventure – other than the training montage the only other set piece is the finale. In fact the character that gets the most to do is Saoirse Ronan’s Talia, the bar maid who believes in the need for knights and supports Justin on his quest to become one. Much of the entertainment value comes from three sources. The first is David Walliams as Melquiades, a magician/wizard who suffers from split-personality disorder. The other source is the three aging knights tasked with training Justin. Their constant bickering offers many laughs, as does the constant threat to the years-old game of chess that they are playing against another castle miles away. The final source is the effeminate Sota, voiced by Rupert Everett. Sota has a thing for fashion and design and is gloriously at odds with the harder-edged bad guys surrounding him.

It's a dragon! Honest!
It’s a dragon! Honest!

Despite the poor script, the voice cast is incredibly strong – Antonio Banderas, Charles Dance, Rupert Everett and Mark Strong are the heavy hitters, joined by up and comers Freddie Highmore and Saoirse Ronan as the two leads. This is one of the few things to recommend, as other than Justin’s history, there’s not much else offered to the remaining characters beyond their strong performances. Banderas’ character was a wasted opportunity, a hulking bulk of a man who is incredibly dim yet sees an opportunity to pretend to be a knight and thus have the people shower him with praise and glory. The thing is, his character doesn’t really go anywhere and could easily be removed from the story with little to no impact on the rest of it.

Rather ambitiously they leave the door wide open for a sequel, which will be fine if they can inject a little more passion and logic to proceedings. A few entertaining scenes does not a good animated movie make. It’s a genuine shame as I liked the initial set-up and the villainous plot – and David Walliams’ Melquiades is occasionally funny – but it seems like the scriptwriters just knocked a few scenes together and cobbled a story from it. Should a sequel emerge, I would hope that more work will go into the story before it enters production. If not, we’re going to end up with another disappointment.

Favourite scene: The simulated dragon attack, with a crocodile in place of an actual dragon.

Quote: “That’s not a stick – THIS is a stick!”

Silly Moment: Anything that comes out of Melquiades’ mouth.

Is there an Alan Rickman plummet?: Yes.

Score: 2.5/5

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