An embarrassingly long time ago, I was sent a copy of the independent holiday film, “The Child King” to review. It’s been such a ridiculously long time that when I was initially asked to review the film the Christmas decorations weren’t out yet in the stores. In fact, I would wager that it may have been possible to buy some Easter stuff at steep discount clearance prices way back then. Maybe.
The only excuse for my scandalous tardiness is a small boy’s fascination with DVD cases that caused me to place it in a location out of his reach, which of course led to “out of sight, out of mind” for moi. I will assume that the creators of the film must have the patience of Job to be willing to wait this long for my review.
Enough groveling? I hope so.
“The Child King” tells the story of an older brother determined to prove to his younger brother than Santa Claus exists. The two head off on a memorable road trip of adventure and personal discovery. Sarah Kate and I watched the film together last week; we were not expecting Biker Santa. 🙂
The lead characters in the film are the two brothers, Jeremy and Jarret, who live with their widowed father. The father is loving, but stereotypically (or is it typically?) overprotective. The oldest, Jeremy, played by Peter Johnson, has Down syndrome. It is Jeremy’s confidence in himself and his sensitivity to his younger brother’s feelings that jump start their adventure.
First things first – this film is not a cinematic masterpiece. It doesn’t have high-tech special effects or an all-star cast. The production is rough in some places compared to most current theatrical releases. But high-priced visual effects and an all-star cast don’t guarantee a good film (“Star Wars” episodes 1-3, anyone?). What the movie lacks in production value, it more than makes up for in heart.
Are some of the film’s scenes a bit predictable? Absolutely. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The film’s story is such that the audience sees the hand of the Jolly Fat Man at every turn, though the boys themselves are largely unaware. Interwoven in the story of the two brothers is another story – one found in a favorite book read to the boys by their mother before she died. The story of “The Child King” (from which the film’s name is taken) is about an infant prince who is sent away by his father, the king, due to his physical abnormality at birth.
Both story arcs end happily – if they didn’t, I don’t think you could call it a feel good holiday film! – but even better than a “happy ending” is the fact that the film bucks the stereotypes that all too often permeate films with disabled characters. Jeremy is not an angel, is not helpless, is not to be pitied, and doesn’t fit the Down syndrome stereotype. He’s just an older brother, a little less worldly and a little more trusting than most, but still just a brother.
“The Child King” is funny and touching – a holiday family film in the purest sense of the phrase.
The backstory behind the film is fascinating in itself. Read more about it here. Also note that profits from the film benefit The Child King Foundation, a nonprofit that provides grants to organizations, charities, and individuals that assist people with intellectual disabilities. Order your own copy of the film here.