When a kingdom that has done away with knights faces peril, from an evil (though only comically so) ex-knight, it is up to one brave boy to undertake the grueling quest to stop him. Justin is the grandson of the last great knight to serve the kingdom before a law was passed to prohibit their existence. He wishes more than anything to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps as a noble and virtuous knight, even if that means disappointing his father’s hopes that he will pursue a career in the law.
‘Justin and the Knights of Valor’ is a quirky little animated movie produced by Antonio Banderas. It is a fairly typical addition to the animated genre with mild though often entertaining humor and an art style reminiscent of many recent films from bigger studios like Disney and Dreamworks. Younger kids should certainly be amused by its story and brand of humor. While the film does offer enough to be enjoyable for older audiences, it is certainly catered exclusively for the young so there is none of the hidden and contextual humor found in films like the ‘Shrek’ series, offering additional laughs for the mature and initiated.
One thing worth noting about the film is a consistent plot theme, repeated ad nauseam, which borders on something of an agenda. Constantly throughout the film there is a conflict between the ideas of law and justice. The law (as a whole) is portrayed as a negative force, which while making things equal and fair also makes everyone unhappy (In one particular scene this is argument is explicitly woven into the dialog). Reliance on laws is a destructive fix, which did away with the true notions of justice and replaced them with a system that threatens the very existence of the kingdom. The overall message of the movie quickly becomes that the law is a poor and dangerous substitute for the pursuit of true justice through tradition and honor. Now, of course, questions of what justice means and its relationship to the law are important, but a straight-to-DVD animated kids movie seems a poor (and inappropriate) place to furnish an answer, especially one with such a controversial anti-law twist.
Despite this possible hint of a philosophical agenda, ‘Justin and the Knights of Valor’ presents itself as a solid film with a well-developed plot and engaging characters. It is definitely something the whole family could come together and enjoy.