Justin (Freddie Highmore) lives in an ancient world of dragons and heroes, where Knights have been outlawed by his lawyer father. When he is faced with going to college to be a lawyer like his father, Justin’s grandmother encourages him to go on a quest to become a Knight and protect his kingdom, like his gradfather did. Justin sets out on his journey, and meets a mysterious order of former Knights who are willing to train him. The trouble is that an angry former Knight is headed for the kingdom, and has sworn revenge on the Queen.
The first thing you need to know about Justin and the Knights of Valour is that the film certainly has its heart in the right place; this is a story about finding who you are and accepting help from those around you. The second thing you need to know about Justin and the Knights of Valour is that it is told in a formulaic and uninspiring way.
Justin and the Knights of Valour is a Spanish production presented by Antonio Banderas, who is obviously trying to do his bit for the Spanish film and animation industries, but there are better stories out there, or at least a more interesting way to tell this one.
Each character rides high on cliché; the controlling father, the wimpy son who does good, the tough chick who, for some reason, works in a fast food restaurant, the pretty but vapid girl. The list goes on. As for the villains, they are so thin and one dimensional as to be utterly boring. There is little motivation given and it seems that these villains are mean for the sake of it.
The animation looks good in places – mostly in the backgrounds – but the people in the film still look staid and plastic and, since the film was obviously animated to the Spanish language version of the dialogue, the lip-synching is an absolute mess. And it’s in 3D… Sigh.
The story is one that seems fine on the surface, but it is derivative of every other slightly medieval story you have come across; there are shades of The Princess Bride, Shrek and every adventure story you loved as a child, but watered down and thin. As well as this, there is a horse who behaves like a dog á la Tangled, a split personality magician and a massive chess like game being played over two continents… Ok, the last one is a rather nice idea, admittedly.
Manuel Silica’s film may well be lost in translation, and Spanish audiences will love it, but there seems to have been little imagination used, and Justin and the Knights of Valour comes of feeling reminiscent of everything, but with little substance and no appeal for either adults or kids.