Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Justin and the Knights of Valor Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
Young Justin dreams of following in his grandfather Sir Roland’s footsteps and becoming one of the legendary Knights of Valor. Along his quest, he encounters a slew of quirky characters, including the beautiful  Talia and handsome Sir Clorex, who try to teach Justin the skills he needs to become a mighty knight. Justin is put to the test when he is forced to face a power-hungry army of thugs, led by the mighty Sota, but soon learns that true strength comes from the heart. From Antonio Banderas comes this wonderfully animated adventure for the whole family, with an outstanding cast of voice talent that includes Freddie Highmore, Rupert Everett, Alfred Molina and Saoirse Ronan.
Film (3 out of 5 stars)
Justin (Freddie Highmore) is the grandson of the late Sir Roland, one of the greatest Knights to ever live. His father Reginald (Alfred Molina) is a lawyer and has decided that Justin will follow the same path. As Justin studies for the entrance exams he learns he has been accepted based on his father’s reputation. His future appears all but set. Justin dreams of the days of the Knights. Knights were replaced with a set of laws and men like Reginald to enforce them.

Only Justin’s grandmother Lily (Julie Walters) will reminisce with Justin about his grandfather. Justin wants to be a Knight, not a lawyer and Lily indulges, sending him on his first quest. With only a key in hand, Justin sets off. He soon learns about the Knights and more about the death of Sir Roland. As Justin yearns to be trained in the ways of the Knights, the disgraced Sir Heraclio (Mark Strong) returns seeking vengeance on the Queen. The flamboyant Sir Sota (Rupert Everett) assists in the scheme.

Justin also faces the danger of a sorcerer named Melquiades (David Williams). His main ally appears to be the bar-maiden named Talia (Saoirse Ronan) even though he spends far too long obsessed with the vapid beauty from home named Lara (Tamsin Egerton). Just when you think there couldn’t be any more characters, Antonio Banderas’ character Clorex is introduced. Clorex decides to become Sir Clorex, trading the life of a servant for that of royalty.

Screenwriter Matthew Jacobs has certainly packed a lot of information into this 90 minute family film. Whether or not my son followed all the story lines seems irrelevant as he clearly enjoyed the experience. There is a significant cast of seasoned voice actors that help the story stay together. They each create a very memorable character and Freddie Highmore is a strong enough Justin to pull this off.

The film worked for my six year old and will probably hold its own with children into the tween years. The preschool aged children will likely get bored with the story and start playing with whatever toy they find on your living room floor about 10 minutes into this. It doesn’t have the songs and dancing animals that are standard when attempting to hold the attention of the toddler/preschool group.

I would have preferred a story about Sir Roland, and what it was like in the time of the Knights. Justin and the Knights of Valor doesn’t give enough information about the Knights of Valor. With all its complexity, the 90 minute run time feels a little long. Overall, it is a well made film with good animation and great voice actors. For a parent who has been subjected to repeat viewings of Froze, this might be a welcomed change of pace.
Video (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Justin and the Knights of Valor is presented on Blu-ray with a 16x9 ratio. There is a definite lack of background motion that you’d see in the average animated film. The computer generated images contain a varied color palette, solid black levels and good detail.
Audio 4 out of 5 stars)
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track has a good range and is slightly above average. During training and when crowds are gathered, the audio has an appropriate weight to it. Dialogue is consistent and intelligible and the film contains a score by Kick-Ass composer Ilan Eshkeri.
Extras (1/2 out of 5 stars)
The special features section is definitely lacking. It contains a roughly 7 1/2 minute featurette with cast and filmmaker interviews and a handful of trailers which play automatically and cannot be accessed otherwise.
Summary (3 out of 5 stars)
Justin and the Knights of Valor is not going to grab the attention of your really little ones, and will likely not be the type of animated film that people without kids will bother with. The main character is strong enough to keep a elementary school aged child occupied, although they may or may not pay attention to the myriad of plot details. It is a PG rated film, that I don’t think requires true parental guidance. It’s a little more enjoyable than you’d expect from a direct to Blu-ray release and I enjoyed it more than Axel, the last ARC release I reviewed.

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