The 10th Kingdom is a generally fun fantasy film, buoyed by a fantastic performance by Scott Cohen, and neat re-imagining of some familiar fairy-tale characters.
Plot: New York waitress Virginia Lewis (Kimberly Williams) embarks across the 9 kingdoms with her father (John Larroquette) and Wolf (Scott Cohen) to stop the evil Queen (Dianne Wiest) and restore the prince (Daniel Lapaine) to his proper form.
Review: I started watching the 10th Kingdom because I got it confused with a fantasy television movie that I thought had Martin Short in it. Of course, that is not the case…though, there are two television movies (Alice in Wonderland & Prince Charming) that do star Martin Short. I don’t know why I was fixated on Martin Short appearing, especially considering…he wasn’t in this one…but I digress…
The 10th Kingdom is a mostly fun fairy-tale fantasy mini-series. The concept itself is pretty neat with two people from modern-day New York adventuring across a mythical land that includes appearances by trolls, dwarves, the Bo Peeps, Snow White, and the Evil Queen. There is a multitude of activities, scenarios, and situations that the heroes get themselves into. The cinematography is stunning, the costumes are elaborate and elegant, and the music fits the theme (I especially liked Virginia teaching townsfolk in one village a variation of “We Will Rock You” by Queen).
The performances are generally good. The standout is Scott Cohen, who brings a manic energy to the role of Wolf, Virginia’s prospective suitor, and protector. I absolutely love John Larroquette, who arguably had the most extensive character arc, starting out greedy and cowardly but ending up being noble and heroic. Rutger Hauer was solid as always as the Queen’s right-hand man, Ed O’Neill was amusing as the Troll King, and Dianne Wiest was suitably imposing as the evil Queen.
I will give the story this – it had a swerve in it that I never guessed, and never saw coming. That being said, it did have its warts. The Queen spends most of the movie fighting with the Troll King, which takes away any threat she could pose to the heroes. It’s an unnecessary fight, with a foregone conclusion. I also found the King and Virginia characters irritating at times; the King, who switches places with a dog, is just stupid when he’s in his canine persona. Virginia, though, is the most egregious failing. She is supposed to be the hero of the piece, but her random temper tantrums to both her father and Wolf, often with little provocation, detracted from me rooting for her to succeed.
I also found the CGI to be terrible at times. At one point, Wolf buys Virginia a ring, which ends up featuring an animated pearl that sings. Not only was the animation of the pearl unconvincing, but it was also undoubtedly the most annoying character in the entire story. When Wolf ends up throwing it into a river, I actually cheered. Some of the makeup (including on the Troll King) was also a tad unconvincing and made me see the actor beneath the getup, instead of allowing me to imagine him disappearing into the guise.
Overall though, this was an entertaining story, with a good pace and enough new environments, situations, and characters continually being introduced to stave away any boredom. While it’s in no way a perfect mini-series, enough is going on here that I can recommend checking it out if you have the chance.