There are some subjects and film mediums which seem tailor-made for each other – an example being fairytales and animation. This combination, started in the 1930’s by the daddy of animators Walt Disney, has always proven a safe bet as the cartoon Justin and the Knights of Valour proves. Though not deriving from one of the common fairytale sources such as Grimm or Perault, this film directed by Manuel Sicilia and starring the voice talents of Freddie Highmore, Saoirse Ronan and Antonio Banderas, has all the elements you’d expect from the genre including brave knights, fearsome dragons and fair maidens in distress.
Justin (Highmore) yearns to be a knight just like his late grandfather Sir Roland. However his father Reginald (Alfred Molina) has other plans and wants Justin to study and become a lawyer like him. Determined to follow his heart Justin sets off for the legendary Tower of Wisdom, which is watched over by three wise monks, Blucher (James Cosmo), Legantir (Charles Dance) and Braulio (Barry Humphries), whom Justin hopes will instruct him in the ancient laws of chivalry and help him in his quest to become a fully fledged knight.
Claiming that this film features many factors common to fairytales, though not necessarily untrue, is neither strictly speaking correct. The main knight in question, ie. Justin, may be keen, but he is not what you would at first consider the archetypal hero. Initially somewhat weedy, his braveness only comes as a result of his perseverance and belief in himself which of course wins out in the end in the fashion of all good, moralistic tales. As for fearsome dragons and fair maidens – here again the film turns common held assumptions on their heads. The dragon is in fact little more than a bumbling crocodile in disguise whilst Talia (Ronan), who takes the part of the main damsel, is no helpless maiden, and turns out to be more than a match for the countless blockhead men she encounters each day in her job as a feisty serving wench at the local inn.
With it’s clever twists on the popular fairytale patterns – as well as featuring a host of voices by stars such as Julie Walters and Rupert Everett who seem to make a good living by providing their vocal talents for cartoon characters – Justin and the Knights of Valour is a witty pastiche of the age old legends and a film which will effortlessly enchant audiences of all ages.