Justin and the Knights of Valour
A sweet-natured family film that suffers from homely 3D computer animation and humdrum plotting
In a market either dominated by the glossy high-profile cartoons by Pixar and DreamWorks or the dreamy works of Japan’s Studio Ghibli, it’s heartening to see a European company get in on the animated action. Despite its very British cast, Justin and the Knights of Valour is the work of Spanish company Kandoor Graphics – the Granada-based animation outfit behind 2008’s Noah’s Ark-style effort The Missing Lynx.
Freddie Highmore voices Justin, a young lad who dreams of becoming a knight like his grandfather. Desperate to impress the rather haughty Lara (Tamsin Egerton), he sets out to learn the code of the armour-sporting warriors – even though he’s barely able to lift a broadsword. But when a banished former knight Sir Heraclio (Mark Strong) returns to threaten the kingdom – one who has previously crossed swords with Justin’s grandfather – his quest is given genuine emotional resonance.
Manuel Sicilia, co-director on The Missing Lynx, returns to call the shots here, collaborating with British writer Matthew Jacobs (who previously worked on Disney’s The Emperor’s New Groove). It’s a rather by-numbers script in parts, with Justin falling for Lara and failing to spot the charms of local bartender Talia (Saoirse Ronan). But some of the support cast revel in their roles – notably David Walliams as bizarre wizard Melquiades and an on-form Rupert Everett as Sir Heraclio’s wheedling minion, Sota.
On board as producer, Antonio Banderas also voices a pompous, vain knight – although his presence inadvertently reminds you of the superior Shrek series, in which he starred. Justin… is never quite as funny or knowing as that franchise, sadly. It’s a more serviceable experience, driven by homely 3D computer animation and humdrum plotting. But with its talk of honour and loyalty, it’s still a sweet-natured film that kids in the 8–12 age bracket will fall for.
General release from Fri 13 Sep.