Angus Imrie’s teenage Merlin fizzes up clunky The Kid Who Would Be King
Now and again a movie comes along that one finds oneself enjoying the hell out of, even while saying to oneself, “Dear gods, this is terrible!” And sometimes a movie that is a pile of steaming offal becomes a beloved cult object, based on one strength or another. We have a new candidate for a cult favorite that is awful on many levels: The Kid Who Would Be King, written and directed by Joe Cornish (Attack the Block). Five minutes in, I wanted to walk out, due to the hokey dialogue and subpar performances by the leads; but I quickly discovered that I was having entirely too much fun.
The movie, a contemporary riff on the Matter of Britain, stars Louis Ashbourne Serkis (son of motion-capture king Andy) as Alex, a fatherless English boy with a great destiny, and Dean Chaumoo as Bedders, his doofus sidekick who always needs rescuing from the school bullies, Lance (Tom Taylor) and Kaye (Rhianna Doris). The opening act is devoted to their troubles, and it’s pretty standard afterschool-special dramedy. Then the fleeing Alex takes refuge in an abandoned construction site, finds the magical sword Excalibur sticking out of a crumbling concrete pylon along with the rebar, and of course yanks it out with no difficulty. That makes him the Once and Future King and the target of the undead Morgana le Fay (Rebecca Ferguson), Arthur’s sorceress half-sister, who in this version is portrayed as unrelievedly evil and eager to capitalize on the malaise of Brexit-era Britain.
Thus begins a muddled quest to save the world, track down Alex’s mysterious missing dad and convert the bullies to the cause of righteousness and the Code of Chivalry, not necessarily in that order. The good bits, narrative-conceptwise, are the rejection, à la The Last Jedi, of genetics (as opposed to ethical choices) being what makes someone a Chosen One, plus the script’s commitment to the notion of the willingness to forgive and heal division being integral to good leadership. The teamwork required to defeat the true baddies in the final confrontation – staged at a modern-day English school, in a sort of parody of the Battle of Hogwarts, with cellphones – is truly epic in scale. When you’re on a Hero’s Journey, it’s useful to have a posse.
I feel fairly confident in predicting that someday these child actors will get good at their craft. They aren’t there yet, so the awkward, exposition-laden lines coming out of their mouths drag the movie down. Not irredeemably, though: The real fun begins when Merlin – aging backwards as Arthurian wizards are wont to do – shows up in the form of an extraordinarily dorky teenager, reawakened to assist in Alex and Bedders’ mission. He’s played by Angus Imrie, son of the great English actress Celia Imrie, and he is absolutely, hilariously brilliant.
Young Merlin’s raving speeches are every bit as verbally cumbersome as the rest of the screenplay, but Imrie sells them with such conviction – and with nary a wink of irony – that they take wing. He’s also called upon to do a great deal of tracing magical sigils in the air with his fingers, whose impact is better seen than described. Imrie’s staccato hand jive easily justifies the price of admission. Bonus: He occasionally transforms into an equally enthusiastic Old Merlin; Sir Patrick Stewart seems to be having the time of his life in this throwaway role.
A few other highly competent adult actors are invested in this project, notably Denise Gough, who won an Olivier Award for the recent National Theatre production of Angels in America and did an impressive turn as the cross-dressing countess Missy de Morny in last year’s Colette. Her role as Alex’s evasive mother, like pretty much all the female characters in The Kid Who Would Be King, is underwritten, alas; but Gough delivers with as much depth as the script will allow.
Rated PG, presumably because the monsters (corpses on horseback, as inept in battle as Star Wars Stormtroopers) might be deemed too nightmare-inducing for preschoolers, The Kid Who Would Be King seems likely to please most younger viewers. Take some with you and give yourself over to the fun.
– Frances Marion Platt
Ice Harvest Festival
The Hanford Mills Museum presents its 30th traditional Ice Harvest Festival on Saturday, February 2. Guests take part in a traditional ice harvest using historic tools and techniques. Each year seven to eight tons of ice are harvested. The festival also features ice carving, ice fishing, horse-drawn sleighrides, a snowman village, a hot soup buffet, food trucks, blacksmithing and cooking demonstrations and exhibits by local businesses and farmers. Kids aged 12 and under get in free; admission for adults and teens is $9, $7 for seniors.
Ice Harvest Festival, Saturday, Feb. 2, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Hanford Mills, 51 County Highway 12, East Meredith, (607) 278-5744, ww.hanfordmills.org
Chinese New Year crafts at Tivoli Free Library this Saturday
Kids ages 5 to 14 are invited to make paper lanterns to celebrate the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Pig, on Saturday, February 2 from 10:30 until 11:30 a.m. in the East Room of the Tivoli Library. Crafting materials will be provided for this free workshop. Contact the library at (845) 757-3771 to register, though, because space is limited. The Tivoli Free Library is located in the historic Watts dePeyster Hall at 86 Broadway in Tivoli.
Dragon King marionette show this Saturday in Rhinebeck
The Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck’s award-winning family series returns in February and features a variety of family-friendly shows, beginning on Saturday, February 2 with Dragon King by the Tanglewood Marionettes, an underwater fantasy based on Chinese folklore. The series also includes a new pirate show by the Up in Arms Puppets, an interactive live theater production of The Wizard of Oz and a new magic show by magician Margaret Steele. Upcoming shows in March include Celtic Heels Irish Dance, the Barefoot Dance Company, Upcycled Cinderella with the Bright Star Theater and Treasure Island by the Hampstead Stage Company. All performances begin at 11 a.m. and are approximately 50 minutes in length. Tickets cost only $8.
Dragon King marionette show
Saturday, Feb. 2
Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck
661 Route 308
Valentine’s Day, Mardi Gras crafts at Elting Library in New Paltz
The Elting Memorial Library in New Paltz is hosting a Valentine’s Day craft event on Friday, February 8 at 4 p.m. Kids of all ages are welcome to participate in cookie-decorating and several other holiday-themed craft projects. The event is free and no registration is required. If you have questions, stop by the library at 93 Main Street, or call (845) 255-5030.
Also coming soon at the Elting Library is a community Mardi Gras celebration that all are invited to join. Part of the festivities on Sunday, March 3 will be a Shoebox Float Parade. In New Orleans, there are full-sized floats in the French Quarter, but here in New Paltz, the creations can be just as inventive and exciting, even if the dimensions will be a little smaller (the size of a shoebox).
On Wednesday, February 13 from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at the Elting Library, the Youth Advisory Group and Manny’s Art Supplies are hosting a free workshop to help you get your shoebox float started. There will be plenty of craft materials to use, but you are welcome to bring items from home as well.
Let your imagination run wild. See what you can create on your own or with a “krewe” of friends at the shoebox float workshop. The workshop is free, and no registration is necessary. Stop by the library at 93 Main Street or call (845) 255-5030 with questions.
Amphibian Migrations & Road Crossings Project training
Forest-dwelling salamanders and frogs come out from winter cover each spring to breed in vernal pools. The annual amphibian migration from woods to water usually takes place in March or April, often on a single “Big Night” when air temperatures above 40 degrees and recent rain create ideal conditions for their movement en masse.
But getting there safely is a challenge for amphibians. They face a virtual minefield of impediments along the way and are often killed by vehicular traffic before they can make it to their destination. In 2018, volunteers helped at least 1,771 amphibians cross roads during the migration in our area.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Hudson River Estuary Program will host a training session for volunteers of this year’s Amphibian Migrations & Road Crossings Project. This optional workshop will be helpful for new volunteers, as well as anyone needing to refresh their skills in amphibian identification and data collection. In addition, there will be a hands-on activity and a chance to meet other volunteers.
The training will be offered on Thursday, February 7 from 6 to 8 p.m. in New Paltz. The workshop is free, but space is limited and registration is required. To sign up, use the following link: www.surveymonkey.com/r/amrc_2019_volunteertraining. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions. For information on the project, visit https://on.ny.gov/2ThF7Rp or https://on.ny.gov/1iDfCFh.
Groundhog Day at Hudson Highlands Nature Museum
Celebrate Groundhog Day at the Hudson Highlands Nature Museum on Saturday, February 2 from 10 until 11:15 a.m. Will there be an early spring? Learn about these furry prognosticators and the history behind this age-old tradition. Make a groundhog craft and take a walk outside to look for your shadow! This activity is suggested for adults and families with children age 4+. Admission costs $5 per person for non-members.
The Outdoor Discovery Center of the Hudson Highlands Nature Museum is located on Muser Drive, across from 174 Angola Road in Cornwall. For more information or to register, call (845) 534-5506 or visit www.hhnm.org.
Munsee nature walk series at Historic Huguenot Street
Historic Huguenot Street will host a nature walk at the Nyquist-Harcourt Wildlife Sanctuary in New Paltz led by ethnoecologist Justin Wexler, founder of Wild Hudson Valley, on Saturday, February 9 at 11 a.m., titled “The Midwinter Hunt: Bears, Stars and Snow.” This walk is the first of four in a series called “Everywhere at Home: How Local Native People Once Lived with the Land.” Hikers on this trek will learn about local flora and fauna and their uses within native Munsee culture and folklore.
The year’s remaining hikes include: “The Springtime Fishing Camps: Shad, Birds and Flowers” on May 11; “Summers of Growth: Fruits, Greens and Sun” on August 10; and the final walk, “The Autumn Harvest: Maize, Nuts and Venison,” which will take place on November 9 at the Mohonk Preserve, where visitors can see the reconstructed longhouse on-site.
For the first walk, meet at the wigwam in front of the DuBois Fort Visitor Center on Huguenot Street. The tour should last 60 to 90 minutes, and tickets cost $20 per adult, but discounts are available. To register and purchase tickets online, visit www.huguenotstreet.org/calendar-of-events. For more information, call (845) 255-1660.
Elting Library now accepting youth photo contest entries
The Elting Memorial Library is hosting a photo contest and exhibition for teen photographers in grades 8 through 12. Applications for this contest are being accepted now, with a deadline of Friday, March 29. Photos can be in black-and-white or color, and must be taken in or around New Paltz. Submissions must be matted. The entry categories include Portrait, Landscape and Other. The entrant should specify the category in which they would like to enter the photo. No more than two photos per entrant are allowed.
Photos will be displayed in the library after the submission date and reviewed by a panel of external judges. A reception to announce the winners will take place on Tuesday, April 9 at the library. The public is welcome to attend the reception and, of course, view the display.