Justin and the Knights of Valour
Film Title: Justin and the Knights of Valour
Director: Manuel Sicilia
Starring: Freddie Highmore, Saoirse Ronan, Charles Dance, Antonio Banderas
Running Time: 96 min
As marketing devices go, we’re happy to roll along with Quentin Tarantino or Eli Roth Presents . . . So what if it’s as crass as branding gets? This is the movieverse, a stomping ground for such brand-happy Olympians as Roger Corman and William Castle. It’s supposed to be gimmicky. It’s supposed to say “Boom!”.
However, we’re not so sure about this “Antonio Banderas Presents” business. The delightful Spaniard may bring the same pipes to this unlovely medieval adventure that jollied along three Shrek movies and one Puss in Boots spin-off. But that does not, as Justin and the Knights of Valour unkindly demonstrates, make him an expert in the field of animation.
At a time when Rush is demonstrating that European co-productions can out-manoeuvre Hollywood slick on a good day, Justin marks an unwelcome return to the Euro-puddings of yore. Even a decent vocal cast – including David Walliams’ schizoid wizard, dependable Mark Strong’s villain, Julie Walters’s batty gran and Saoirse Ronan’s feisty serving wench – can’t enliven this thoroughly unadventurous adventure.
The make-and-do plot follows the bland young hero of the title as he turns his back on legal studies and a lawyer father (Alfred Molina) in order to emulate his late grandfather, a do-gooder knight. Unhappily, the queen (Olivia Williams) has outlawed knights. More unhappily still, the damsel Justin seeks to impress is, like, shallow.
Suddenly, in a series of thundering conveniences, the enemies of the kingdom (led by the nefarious marauder who killed Justin’s grandfather) gather together with – of course – Rupert Everett in the ranks. And then there’s a knight training montage and then, for reasons we never quite understood, a crocodile with wings.
We’d say it was cobbled together from discarded bits of Brave and Shrek, except that neither of those films look like a Beta release for the Sega Mega Drive. Won’t somebody think of the children?