Movies such as Monsters, Inc, Finding Nemo and Shrek have brought tears, laughter and a sense of wonder to the lives of millions of children and adults alike and with a sweet story and stellar cast Justin and the Knights of Valour had the potential to have a similar impact on animation lovers but sadly this film barely manages to dent the perfect armour of the Pixar and Dreamworks classics.

Set in medieval times, this film centres on Justin (Freddie Highmore), a young boy who dreams of becoming a knight but unfortunately for him, knights have been outlawed and his father is adamant that he must follow in his footsteps and go to law school. Like all good melodramatic teenagers Justin thinks that his father just doesn't understand him and decides to run away to seek out his dream.

Since Pixar brought us Toy Story, us adults have come to expect a certain level of intelligence and humour from animated kids movies and the majority of writers and directors now very rightly pander to our needs – after all we’re the ones forking out for the tickets.

Alas, the creators of Justin and The Knights of Valour seem to have decided that stimulating the minds of the over 12s is a redundant exercise and instead aimed the majority of their laughs solely at those who have only recently learned their ABCs.

In fact the only character who managed to extract a chuckle or two from the audience was wizard Melquiades (Walliams) who suffers from a multiple personality disorder that would put Lord of the Rings’ Gollum to shame. Unfortunately after the initial amusement of a mad-man wears off, Melquiades’ ramblings become just as annoying and predictable as this film’s plot.

Similarly Rupert Everett’s wonderfully camp knight Sota could have been funny had we not already experienced Everett voice a shockingly similar character in Shrek 2 and 3.

When it came to animation, it was never going to be easy for Spanish studio, Kandor Graphics to compete with the heavy weights that are Pixar and Dreamworks and although Justin and the Knights of Valour lacks the big-budget polish of similar movies, Kandor Graphics have still managed to create a lively and visually engaging world for their decidedly average characters to inhabit.

It seems that the main issue with Justin and the Knights of Valour is not the fact that it’s not very funny or that the graphics aren’t quite as slick as we’re used to. The problem is that this film feels as if its creators decided to cash in on the hugely popular animation market without bothering to bring anything new or original to mix.

We’ve seen this story and these characters done to far higher standard before, - see: How To Train Your Dragon - so your best bet is to give this one a miss and head down to the DVD shop instead – both your kids and your attention span will thank you for it.

Ruth Aravena

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