Justin and the Knights of Valour Blu-ray Review
There has been a revolution in filmmaking during the past few years. As technology and filmmaking tools have become more available to the public (which I generally think of as a good thing) there have been a lot more films made each year. The end result, I think, has been a net positive for the film industry – more great stories have a chance to be told. But this also means that a lot of mediocre films are also given the green light. Once of the most recent, an animated feature named JUSTIN AND THE KNIGHTS OF VALOUR, is a perfect example of predicament.
JUSTIN AND THE KNIGHTS OF VALOUR is the story of a young man (Justin, voiced by Freddie Highmore from BATES MOTEL) who wants to become a knight like his grandfather. But instead of a traditional kingdom, his is ruled bureaucrats and the Queen has outlawed all knights. To top it off, the lawyer behind the Queen’s decree is none other than Justin’s father, Reginald, who wants Justin to attend law school. Justin must decide what he must do – follow his heart or do what his father thinks is right. Like so many other films before it, JUSTIN AND THE KNIGHTS OF VALOUR has moments of fun and is essentially a coming-of-age story, which isn’t a necessarily a bad thing… the problem is in the execution.
Lets start with the animation – there are glimpses of some real talent here, especially in the middle expository sequence where the story of Justin’s heroic grandfather is finally revealed to him but the rest just isn’t up to the standards set by so many Disney, Pixar, and Dreamworks features from the past few years. This doesn’t mean a company with a smaller budget cannot create a great work, but JUSTIN AND THE KNIGHTS OF VALOUR is far too ambitious, trying to create large scenes with lots of wooden characters rather than focusing on more intimate scenes that allow for greater flexibility for a few characters on the screen. In fact, in those small scenes and sequences Justin has a few of his best moments; they’re just too few and far between.
The voice acting is just meh which is disappointing given the talent they amassed for the film. Without any truly standout stars, they still have Antonio Banderas (as Sir Clorex), Mr. Highmore, Alfred Molina (as Justin’s father Reginald), Rupert Everett (as Sota), and the wonderful Saoirse Ronan (as Justin’s love interest, Talia). I expected more from this group of talented folks. In general they are all too understated, never really giving anything memorable to their performances. Everyone else, sadly, present as so over-the-top as to be caricature-ish in their delivery, resulting in an uneven delivery that doesn’t match the action. The soundtrack and narrative are similarly dull; neither one does anything particularly original or well, there are few surprises and more disappointments.
All-in-all JUSTIN AND THE KNIGHTS OF VALOUR is a surprisingly disappointing feature. It’s made more so by the fact that there are some interesting scenes and ideas presented in the story but instead of showcasing and using them the filmmakers chose to make them mere set pieces. The fun moments, like Justin’s training sequence with his Grandad’s compatriots and some of the interesting machines that exist there, don’t come close to necessitating the entirety of the picture. In the end JUSTIN AND THE KNIGHTS OF VALOUR is extremely average. It’s not going to be the worst animated feature you see this year (if you choose to see it) but it certainly isn’t going to measure up to most of the others you’ll see with your kids this year either.
Video: (1080p Widescreen 2.40:1) The video presentation of JUSTIN AND THE KNIGHTS OF VALOUR looks quite nice on an HDTV. The animation is fairly smooth smooth and the colors are vibrant in a few scenes, making the film all the more disappointing for its repetitive nature and old story.
Audio: (English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio) The audio for JUSTIN AND THE KNIGHTS OF VALOUR is actually really well presented. It is easy to hear and the levels are all nicely done for a kids movie.
The Making of JUSTIN AND THE KNIGHTS OF VALOUR (07:23) Cast and crew talk about their work on JUSTIN AND THE KNIGHTS OF VALOUR interspersed with a large amount of footage from the film. This feature doesn’t go into the making of the movie so much as give the actors a chance to voice their reasoning for being involved. There was obviously more thought into the motivations of the characters than came through the final product.
The only other feature on the disc is the Theatrical Trailer (01:54). Apparently JUSTIN AND THE KNIGHTS OF VALOUR was given a *limited* theatrical release in the worst kind of 3D. I’m thankful they didn’t try to push that through to those who will find this movie at least somewhat entertaining.