Sunday, September 9, 2007

The 10th Kingdom

Alright, so this isn't a movie, but it is a 6.95 hour long “made for TV” mini-series, and that counts in my opinion. By the way, it's Alan Trehern here to review probably the greatest mini-series/fantasy/John Larroquette movies OF ALL TIME, so get yourself ready. Now you're probably wondering what the 10th kingdom is right? Well, it's New York City, or our world, as opposed to the 9 fairy tale Kingdoms that exist in another dimension. Fairy tales; you know, Snow White, Cinderella, dwarves, basically Disneyland for adults.

The 10th Kingdom is excellent for three main reasons: story, character personalities and overall innovation. I shall discuss each one in turn, without giving too much away. However, at the end of the article, I will list some spoilers because the movie is fairly hard to find, and also I know some of you would never think of watching it, and plus I like giving things away.


Probably the strongest aspect of this movie, one man named Simon Moore, also a producer, wrote the story. For a seven hour movie, it’s pretty impressive to have every aspect of your tale in the movie without it affecting the entire film negatively. (Note: The LOTR books are intense, but very boring overall, therefore not everything was placed in those movies. This is the antithesis of the 10th Kingdom; for a movie to keep an audience interested while portraying an entire literary work unhinged is quite impressive). Here’s the “down low”: The fairy tale worlds are under attack from an evil queen recently escaped from prison, the prince (soon to be king) of the Fourth Kingdom is turned into a dog, and Tony Lewis (John Larroquette, Night Court, Anything Hilarious) is a janitor. Could life get better? I submit that it cannot.

Virginia (Kimberly Williams, According to Jim), is Tony’s daughter and is cursed with the feeling of distrust towards others and complete failures in relationships. This stems from the fact that her mother left her at the age of seven, never to return. After twenty years or so, she cannot get over it. She meets up with the dog-prince, then meets Wolf (a half-wolf, working for the evil queen at the time, trying to get the dog-prince) then manages to drag her father into the fairytale worlds, using the transportation of the queen’s magic mirror. Huff! Tired yet? That’s only about a third of Disc 1.

So now they’re in this world, and Wolf has turned over a new leaf because of some self-help books. So now the antagonists are three inept trolls who provide the comedy relief, but are turned into gold after Tony breaks out of Snow White Memorial Prison. The story then centers around these heroes and their search for the magic mirror so Tony and Virginia can get home, all the while Wolf is falling in love with Virginia and the dog-prince (named Prince), needs their help to overthrow the queen, who has teamed up with the three trolls’ father, the Troll King (Ed O’Neill, Married With Children and Nothing Since). And this is about the time the story gets really good. If you can just muck your way through the huge amounts of characters and intertwining events, you will really enjoy this movie. Having said that, another defining feature of this film is its ability to work in multiple characters without losing sight of the movie’s plotline.

As the story unfolds, more and more characters are introduced and thoroughly used, which I believe is a plus. Some might argue that numerous character plots take you away from the main characters or takes away from the story, but I argue on the contrary. The large cast of secondary characters allows this film to blossom, sometimes taking away the limelight from the main characters and giving you a more expansive view of this imaginative world. It kind of compares to side missions in video games, taking you away from the main storyline and enveloping you in a minor, but no less enjoyable, plot. Each character is portrayed very well, getting the same amount of limelight. In movies like this, I always enjoy character development, because it intertwines with the overall movie, giving you more to think about and a deeper level of movie watching. The 10th Kingdom offers this different level of movie watching, actually taking you into this world and exploring everything it has to offer. It makes you want more even after the last scene (yes, it's 7 hours long and I was wanting more at the end).

Tony’s character is developed the best throughout the movie. He begins as a bitter janitor, who cares about his daughter, but is somewhat unconnected with her and her mother issues. He pretty much cares only about himself, and in the original screenplay, I think the directors wanted him to be a lot more serious. However, John Laroquette found the humor in the character, allowing the audience to see his character transformation through sarcastic comments and slap stick comedy. In the end, Tony realizes the importance of friendship (his relationship with Prince the dog), his daughter’s inner suffering and his ability to dust himself off and start over.

Virginia starts out as a meek, sarcastic recluse almost. She works at a restaurant, which seems to be her only outlet to the outside world. Her travels through the Nine Kingdoms, however, force her to interact more, and start friendships, which she was unable to do up to this point. She even learns to love Wolf, but then again, this guy is a stud, she didn’t have a chance. (Anybody see Russell Crowe in 3:10 to Yuma? It’s kinda like that.) With these new attributes, she is prepared to face her past memories that the queen uses against her.

Wolf, in my opinion, is a constant character, which means he acts the same throughout the film. He is continuously fighting his id and superego verbally, scratching his temple nervously whenever met with confrontation. He is inherently good, but sometimes his love for Virginia and his desire for shepherdesses get the best of him. Wolf is comedic, but you feel for him because he wants to do well, but he’s really stupid.

The character of Prince Wendal, or Prince the dog, is really gay. Seriously, the guy that played this guy likes men. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but did the director say “Hey, let’s make this prince sound like a princess.” Maybe he did to show what a spoiled little brat grows up to be like.

The evil queen (the lady from Edward Scissorhands) is the most mysterious of the main characters. She is the heir of the original evil queen that poisoned Snow White back in the day, and is carrying out her vengeance (apparently the original queen was subjected to dance in red-hot iron shoes at Snow White’s wedding; that is something I’m going to look into when my big day rolls around). Her character is pretty constant as well, never really changing, always evil. But I don’t want to give away the end.Even the guest appearances are well done, including Warwick Davis (Return of the Jedi, Leprechaun), Ann Margaret (Viva Las Vegas), the judge in SheepTown (Lionel's father in As Time Goes By) and Cameron Manheim (the fat lady from The Practice). But I digress.

Overall Influence
I think this movie is so good for a very good reason. It was perhaps one of the first great epics of the new millennium. Coming out around 1999, I would say it was a predessceor to the Harry Potter movies, the Lord of the Ring movies, the Pirates movies, etc. Now is that a bold statement? No. Although it was shown on NBC, that studio did not produce it; it was actually produced by Artisan Entertainment, which isn’t that big. And say x amount of dollars is given to a mini-series, then the guys at The 10th Kingdom went a long way with it, using special effects and locations properly. I read on the internet that is took 12 years to get this thing off the ground, and although it was met with mixed reviews, it has a huge fan following, from what I know. I say it set the standards for television, movies and other outlets in the 21st century, plain and simple. There I said it. Until next time, I leave you with a few bits of 10th Kingdom trivia:

--A sequel has been demanded, and producer/writer Simon Moore wants to do one, he only needs to find the right outlet. The movie ends on the elusion that there will be a sequel, or possibly a upcoming TV series, but that was eight years ago, so I doubt it will ever come about. Plus, my dad claims John Larroquette retired, so there really is no point.

--Although Cinderella is believed dead, she is indeed alive at 200 years old.

--In the castle dungeon, there is writing on the way that reveals that William Grimm had been here 200 years prior, imprisoned in the same cell. Kind of cool.

--(From Wikipedia) The giant bounding across the transformed New York City in the opening credits is actually John Larroquette, uncredited. Damn you, you bastards. Here, I’ll help you out, John. Watch it for yourselves.


larroquette said...

The 10th Kingdom f*cking rocks!

Lauren Williams said...

I agree with everything you say about T10thK setting the standard for today's epics. I've loved this story for nearly half my life. I can still remember certain scenes being used in the 'next week' previews. It blows my mind how much it has shaped me.

God, I hope there is a sequel. I'll wait as long as it takes... as long as it is a miniseries, and not a simply a TV movie. At least, give us a book, honestly.

One note: Virginia is played by KIMBERLY Williams, not Amanda.

butterflie1986 said...

There is actually a book out there.

I absolutely love this movie. (I say it how I see it) I can't wait til they decide to FINALLY do the sequel!!