Once upon a time there was a young lad determined to follow in the traditions of his forefathers – to venture on a quest and return a hero to his kingdom. Along the way he encountered a motley crew of folk and rescued a damsel in distress…
This is a tale told from generation to generation – in this instance it is Antonio Banderas’s retelling of the stock tale in animated 3D format, with the help of the Academy Award nominated Kandor Studios.
We meet Justin (Freddie Highmore) as he rebels against his father’s wishes to become a lawyer and escapes to a training camp run by monks for the Knights of Valour (of whom his grandfather was one). Far from being a handsome and robust youth, Justin is a bumbling and slightly pitiful animation – more of a village idiot than hero-in-training.
To balance the good versus evil continuum, the audience are presented with Heraclio, a dark knight threatening to overthrow the queen, and his camp sidekick Sota. Sota’s vanity and ostentatiously effeminate gesticulations match Rupert Everett’s voiceover perfectly. There is also Sir Clorex (Banderas himself), a false knight with a penchant for the ladies (adults may note that it is perhaps no coincidence that his name is reminiscent of a brand associated with male virility).
Moments of slapstick humour ensue from comedian David Walliams who plays Melquiades – a soothsayer with a split personality, who mutters to himself like a Gollum-esque madman. There are laugh-out-loud scenes, for children at least, due to the sheer buffoonery and calamitous actions of Walliams’ character.
The animation is spot on, and Granada-based Kandor graphics have made every effort to incorporate cartoon versions of the stereotypical fairytale landscape, although the characters all look a bit like mythological versions of Bratz dolls. 3D splashes of rain fall from the sky, castles crumble around you and there is a flying crocodile masquerading as a dragon called Gustav (which sounds funnier than it sadly is).
On the topic of dragons, fans of animation are predicting that Banderas’s film is a direct attempt to mimic the success of 2010’s hugely popular How to Train Your Dragon. Let’s hope that this film is more successful at soaring to success than poor croc-in-disguise, Gustav.
Our rating: **