Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The Fairy Tale Project | The 10th Kingdom (2000)

Who's in it?: Kimberly Williams-Paisley (Father of the Bride), Dianne Wiest (The Lost Boys, Bullets Over Broadway, Practical Magic), John Larroquette (Night Court, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock), Ed O'Neill (Married... with Children, Modern Family), Rutger Hauer (Nighthawks, Blade Runner, Ladyhawke, The Hitcher, Wanted: Dead or Alive, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sin City), Dawnn Lewis (A Different World), Ann-Margret (The Flintstones, Stagecoach, The Train Robbers, The Villain, Grumpy Old Men), and Warwick Davis (Return of the Jedi, Willow).

What's it about?: An evil queen (Wiest) turns a prince into a dog so that she can take over his kingdom, but he escapes through a portal to modern day New York City (aka the 10th Kingdom) where he meets a young woman (Williams-Paisley) and her shiftless father (Larroquette).

How is it?: This TV miniseries has been recommended to me for a while by friends and family who know my fondness for fairy tales. And I was super excited by the cast, especially Williams-Paisley because I love the '90s Father of the Bride movies and she's great in them. I was also curious about its being an early example of fairy tale mashups before that became a popular thing to do. It predates Shrek by a year, the Fables comic by two, and Once Upon a Time by over a decade.

Sadly, I couldn't finish the first episode. It's not really a mashup of known characters. The evil queen is generic and the prince she's fighting is Snow White's grandson. The "wolf" (Scott Cohen) she sends to New York in pursuit of the escaped prince is also generic. I see from the cast list that characters named Snow White and Cinderella (Ann-Margret) eventually show up, but I didn't get that far. The lack of specific fairy tale characters was a minor issue though compared to the overall tone of the story.

It's very silly and full of slapstick. The Queen sends two parties to New York: first a group of trolls (one of whom is Dawnn Lewis) and then the wolf (changed into human form) that I mentioned before. The trolls are bumbling; no threat at all. The wolf is more persistent and successful, but he quickly "falls in love" with Williams-Paisley's character, by which I mean that his desire to eat her conflicts with his desire to have sex with her. That could make some fascinating drama and commentary on the Red Riding Hood story if it was at all taken seriously, but it's not and the wolf is just ridiculous. Reading ahead, I see that Williams-Paisley later falls in love with him, which is a development I'm not curious to see. Even if he weren't super creepy, he's still dumb and weird. I couldn't get into any of these characters or their story.

Rating: Two out of five Annie Banks.

Addendum: I've been hammering hard on these entries to get ready for the next Filthy Horrors recording, but a couple of things have happened to make me slow down. One is that we're recording the fairy tale episode earlier than I originally thought, so I don't have as much time as I thought I would. The other thing though is that the next thing I'm planning to watch is Shrek, which has its charms, but is more silliness right on the heels of The 10th Kingdom. Frankly, my enthusiasm is a bit deflated. There's still some stuff in the queue that I'm super curious and excited about, so I'm going to keep this project going, but I'm not going to try to get it all done before we record the FH episode. So this is the last entry probably for a week or so until I get past some other deadlines.


Erik Johnson Illustrator said...

Yeah... this one has a rough start and unfortunately it doesn’t get much better.

It’s novel in being one of the first of the ‘all fairy tales’ in one place trope and for re-evaluating or deconstruction of their meaning based on our familiarity with them, but as a mini series it’s shockingly repetitive as if it were an ongoing tv show were we see a lot of the seem type of action but it doesn’t move the story forward in any hurry like they’re trying to pad out a season.

It’d be ideal to be remade now in today’s TV climate, especially for a binge streaming service, but now the modern day-fairy tale crossover is old hat and ABC’s Once Upon a Time hasn’t been gone long enough for this to feel fresh again.

Michael May said...

I'd be into a remake with a darker tone that used actual characters from the fairy tales. But yeah, we need some distance from OUaT first.


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