Justin is a young man with dreams of honour and nobility as a Knight of Valour, just like his grandfather. Unfortunately knights have been banned in the kingdom and bureaucracy has taken over. Determined to fulfil his destiny and against his father’s wishes, Justin sets off on a quest to where the Knights of Valour once lived, and meets three monks who agree to train him. Meanwhile, with an absence of brave men to protect the Queen, former knight Sir Heraclio forms a rag-tag group of criminals to overthrow the Queen and take control of the kingdom.
Justin And The Knights Of Valour (2013) – Director: Manuel Sicilia
Running Length: 90 mins
Starring: Freddie Highmore, Antonio Banderas, Mark Strong
Genre: Animated, Comedy, Action
Presented by (and also starring) Antonio Banderas, ‘Justin And The Knights Of Valour’ follows closely in the footsteps of other, similar animated features such as ‘How To Train Your Dragon’ and ‘The Brave’. Sadly, with much expectation preceding it, this movie just doesn’t seem to hit the mark to make it a good kids film. The comedy is almost non-existent and the jokes that are there are usually too grown-up for kids to understand but too childish for adults to find funny. When we watched the movie in a theatre packed with families and, in particular, young kids, we noticed that apart from a few instances, there was a distinct lack of laughter throughout the whole movie.
For us, the unforgivable thing about ‘Justin’ is the flippant way in which it deals with people who have disabilities. While it doesn’t necessarily go as far as being disrespectful, there are two ‘comedy’ characters whose jokes mainly revolve around their illnesses. One has a split personality (both personalities are completely separate and often talk to each other as separate entities, in a similar way to how Gollum in ‘The Lord Of The Rings’ movies talks to Smeagol) while another has epilepsy and his fits are seen as comedy foil.
Despite having a great cast, ‘Justin And The Knights Of Valour’ is not a great movie, the action is disjointed, the characters are unclear in their motivations and overall it is a rather boring film. While we would never tell anyone not to watch a movie, as this is all our opinion, it is difficult to find many positive things in it to help us to recommend it to any member of the family.
IS ‘JUSTIN AND THE KNIGHTS OF VALOUR’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?
Early in the movie, a little girl carries a small cat, which is obviously her beloved pet but is stopped by a large guard. He takes the cat off her and throws it into a caged cart. The little girl is very distressed by this and begins to cry, however Justin is nearby and sees what is happening. Without the guard seeing, he lets the cat out of the cart and it is reunited with the girl who is now very happy and thankful to Justin.
Justin goes to visit his ‘true love’, Lara, who is trying on outfits for an upcoming ball. Most of these outfits are medieval style dresses but one is slightly revealing with a short skirt and modern look, Lara describes it as ‘so hot!’.
One character spits into his hand and pushes it against Justin’s head. As he pulls his hand away, the spit stretches and forms a large gloop which gets flicked across the room, landing in a tankard of beer. The barmaid hesitates but realises that this beer is for her annoying boss so she continues to serve it to him.
During Justin’s training, one of the monks, Braulio, presents him with a large crocodile which has had wings attached to its back via a harness as well as a contraption which shoots fire in order to teach him how to fight a dragon. This crocodile is not in any way aggressive towards Justin but is forced to attack him through Braulio’s controls. It is clearly distressed and terrified throughout the scene – which lasts for several minutes – and is regularly bashed and hit against walls and buildings due to Braulio’s inability to work the controls properly. This is supposed to be a comedy scene; however some kids may be upset by the crocodile’s suffering. This scene also implies that animals are simply to be used (against their will) for the benefit of people and this may not be a message that parents wish to instil in their children.
The character of Melquiades has a split personality disorder and, for the most part, this is done in a light-hearted (if somewhat insensitive) way, however towards the end, he argues with himself. He produces a voodoo doll of himself and twists the neck around, this has the effect of turning his own neck around and his eyes roll back in his head so that only the whites can be seen. This only happens for around 2 seconds and he is immediately seen to be fine after doing this.
CAN I SEE A CLIP?
With its excellent voice cast and similarities to other, very successful animated features, ‘Justin And The Knights Of Valour’ should have been very good, however its lazy script, lack of decent comedy and its dull, nonsensical storylines make it a poor copy of better films. While we are sure that kids are bound to enjoy it more than we did, if the audience in the cinema is anything to go by, it is unlikely that it is going to be a family favourite.
We feel that ‘Justin And The Knights Of Valour’ should be appropriate for children aged 6 and over. As some issues are raised in the movie that children may not have previously been aware of, parents may wish to discuss the messages in the movie about mental health, epilepsy and animal welfare. This will help them to understand these things properly rather than in the childlike, over-simplified way in which they are presented in the film.
- Violence: 1/5 (During his training, Justin is hit hard in the crotch which makes him double over in pain, the character who is training him laughs and says ‘Don’t forget to protect the crown jewels!’ When Sir Heraclio is overseeing the training of his men, he calls one man over, takes out his sword and stabs at the man. The man looks afraid and whimpers but it is then shown that Heraclio has just stabbed his wine bottle)
- Emotional Distress: 1/5 (Justin leaves his home without saying goodbye but leaves a note for his father to find. His father looks upset for a few seconds then crumples the note and throws it to the floor in anger. One established character is stabbed towards the end and ‘dies’ in Justin’s arms. Justin is devastated but after a few seconds, this character wakes up and is ok)
- Fear Factor: 0/5
- Sexual Content: 0/5
- Bad Language: 0/5
- Dialogue: 0/5
- Other notes: Deals with themes of honour, bravery, fulfilling your own destiny, working hard to be as good as you can be, not giving up and the problems that too much bureaucracy can cause.
Words by Laura Record