“Justin And The Knights Of Valour” surprised me. I was expecting a dreary, underdeveloped euro-animation in the turgid tradition of “Freddie As F.R.O.7.” or “Sammy’s Great Escape” but it’s not. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing here that will unduly trouble Pixar and DreamWorks. Well, apart from the fact it was made for about a quarter of what it cost to make “Turbo” or “Monsters University”.
The simplicity and modest storytelling ambitions of “Justin And The Knights Of Valour” are its biggest charms. It tells a straightforward, uncomplicated story with no unnecessary twists and turns, taking the most linear route through its lean running time. Seeking to restore the age of Knights and chivalry to the kingdom, Justin embarks on a quest to reclaim his grandfather’s sword and become a knight himself. This puts him at odds with his own father, who has worked to replace chivalry and honour with regulations and rules after his own father (Justin’s grandfather) was killed by villainous member of the Knights of Valour.
This is fairy tale storytelling by the numbers with the disinterested love interest, the plucky tavern girl, a crazy wizard, a boastful blowhard and some mysterious monks with links to Justin’s grandfather all encountering Justin at just the right moment to keep him on his journey. If anything, the story could have used a little bit more work and taken a bit longer, as it occasionally feels a little disjointed and plot points, although necessary, occur without any proper narrative logic.
The animation is good, if unspectacular and while it might lack the finesse and flourish of the powerhouse animation studios, fledgling Spanish outfit Kandor Graphics acquit themselves well. The voice cast is suitably starry (Freddie Highmore, Saoirse Ronan, Charles Dance, Mark Strong, Rupert Everett and David Walliams to name but a few) but nobody here is stepping out of their comfort zone. Producer Antonio Banderas, especially, serves us the reheated leftovers from his turn in “Puss In Boots” rather than bringing anything new to the table as Sir Clorex.
But I’ve spent many an hour and a half in the cinema less enjoyably than watching “Justin And The Knights Of Valour” and in a summer of dark, complex and gritty films, it’s a bright, cheerful, undemanding breath of fresh air and a perfect autumn rainy day movie to take the kids to.