Video Vault: THE 10TH KINGDOM
For 13 years I anxiously waited to find a copy of and the time to watch 2000’s epic five-part fairytale miniseries The 10th Kingdom. Netflix finally made that happen. I’ll spare you all the suspense and get right down to it; it was an incredibly disappointing 417 minutes for me. Being a huge fan of the vastly superior Merlin miniseries, which was also a Hallmark Entertainment produced NBC series released two years prior, my hopes were quickly shattered in the first 30 minutes of this painfully childish endurance trial. Hmm, I guess I should give you some details and plot summary before we get to the nitty gritty of my glowing critique. Kimberly Williams, John Larroquette, Scott Cohen, Ed O’Neill, Daniel Lapaine, and Dianne Wiest star in this fantastic travesty.
3 imbeciles and a bird.
On the eve of Prince Wendell White’s (Daniel Lapaine) coronation, the Evil Queen (Dianne Wiest) switches his body with that of a dog in an attempt to conquer the 9 Kingdoms and take revenge upon the House of White (decedents of the legendary Snow White). Pursued by a trio of blundering trolls, Wendell (now a dog) escapes the queen’s clutches through the “traveling mirror” that sends him to Manhattan (the 10th Kingdom!!!) where his future becomes entwined with that of a NYC waitress, Virginia (Kimberly Williams), and her goofball handy man father, Tony (John Larroquette). A series of mishaps force Virginia and Tony to follow Wendell back through the mirror and they become trapped in the fairytale kingdom.
Some magic something-or-other gives Tony the ability to speak with Wendell, which makes them reluctant allies in a quest to restore the prince to his true form and send the outsiders home to America. The trio is joined by a conflicted half-wolf, Wolf (Scott Cohen), with split personality Gollum-syndrome. The unlikely team encounters many colorful characters, magical items, perilous dangers, and half-assed fairytale references along their journey. Only after a meeting with the fat, middle-aged ghost of Snow White does Virginia gain the confidence to confront the Evil Queen. Empire Strike’s Back-esque twists ensue before happily ever after is returned to the 9 Kingdoms.
3 imbeciles and a dog.
The main problem with The 10th Kingdom is that it is 7 hours of un-ironic, pre-9/11, over-the-top silliness punctuated by serious moments of attempted child murder and matricide. With the exception of Williams and Wiest, all the actors seem to think they are performing in an elementary school D.A.R.E. assembly. Most of the humor falls flat for anyone older than a 4th grader. 85% of screen time is tainted by hyper-annoying 90’s henchmen trolls or the gratingly cringe-inducing Wolf, who sets a new high for TV off-putting-ness. On top of that there is John Larroquette, whose leading man charisma is in the negatives. Painfully miscast, he is completely incapable of delivering on the few serious or touching father-daughter moments essential for the characters’ endearment.
“I’m the most annoying character ever! Ahhhhwoooooooo!”
The script, however, actually isn’t THAT terrible, with a few clever reconstitutions of fairytale tropes and genuine twists, but a couple rewrites and character retooling would have been a huge improvement. Production design and effects work are decent for late 90’s TV. I guessssssss I can give some credit to the producers for attempting something interesting in concept and grand in scale. As much as I wanted to love The 10th Kingdom, the characters are so irritating that I can’t even recommend watching it for any reason to anyone over 8-year-old. For a more mature and engaging post-happily-ever-after fairytale dissection, I would recommend Stephen Sondheim’s Into to the Woods as it is infinitely more successful than this goofy 417 minutes of my life that the traveling mirror stole from me. I’m going to have see what Once Upon a Time is all about next.
Buy The 10th Kingdom on Amazon. I dare you.