Reviewer: Charity Bishop
From talking mirrors to magic beans, werewolves, wishing wells, and troll dust, The 10th Kingdom is an experience you'll never forget. With an all-star cast, incredible special effects by Artisan and a truly unique premise, this modern-day fairy tale will cast a spell over the entire family. It involves laughter, tears, many valuable lessons, and a shocking plot twist. This kind of modern blend between The Princess Bride and Snow White hasn't been successfully done until now... but Hallmark pulls it off with kid gloves.
Perky Virginia (Kimberly Williams) lives on the edge of Central Park within biking distance of her workplace, a half-rate diner where she spends most of her time. Her father Anthony (John Larroquette), once a successful businessman, is now an underpaid, overworked and often ill-treated janitor at their apartment building. The two share a boring existence, barely standing one another and desiring for a more exciting life. Virginia has resigned herself to the fact that this desire will never come true... but little does she know the adventure that is about to envelope them all in mystery, magic, and danger. The 9 Kingdoms have lived in peace since the imprisonment of the Evil Queen, Prince Wendell White's stepmother. But with the young and selfish prince's coronation forthcoming, he has been asked to make the rounds of his province, including a routine visit to the prison. The Queen (Dianne Wiest) has awaited this moment and formulates a daring plan with the aid of the Troll King.
Wendell's manservant is murdered and the prince himself is imprisoned in the body of a dog, stripped of his rights and his voice. In his place, the Queen places an imposter... her doggy friend (Daniel Lapaine). But her plans go terribly wrong when the dog manages to escape into the cellars, and from there through a magic mirror into modern-day New York. After him she sends Burley, Blabberwort, and Bluebell, along with one of the prison inmates, a werewolf imprisoned for 'sheep worrying' (played by Scott Cohen). Prince leaps out of the mirror into the Park at the precise moment Virginia speeds by on her bike. There is a violent collision and she takes the dog with her to work, little knowing a pack of strange magical creatures will soon be on her trail. After that point, strange things begin to happen to Virginia... from a dog that seems to want to tell her something to three trolls who invade her home, terrorize her father, and steal her shoes, and even to a insane guy who breaks into her grandma's apartment and tries to cook her.
Through a series of comical and unexplainable events, Virginia, Tony, and Prince are forced to flee through the mirror and into the 9 Kingdoms where nothing is as it seems... talking mushrooms, wishing wells, invisibility shoes, poisoned apples, talking birds, evil huntsmen, and fairy-tale creatures run rampant, from a 200-year-old Cinderella to the Tooth Fairy. Unknown to all, the Queen has continued with her plans to overthrow the kingdom, seizing the magic mirrors that once belonged to Snow White's evil stepmother. Through them she can rule the world, and continue where her predecessor left off: by destroying the House of White. All Virginia wants to do is return to her normal life in New York, but each step takes them further from the mirror and deeper into this imperial intrigue. Although she and Tony may believe their only duty is to locate the mirror once more, they are in reality being guided by an unseen force... and their destiny is tied to that of Prince Wendell and his evil stepmother.
It has suddenly become a dangerous game of hidden priorities and Virginia must learn to trust her instincts as they are joined by Wolf. Someone or something is keeping them safe from the Evil Queen, but it cannot last forever. Magic, mayhem, and mystery abound in this eight-hour television epic who now has one of the largest followings of any miniseries ever produced. The story is alive with myth, humor, and surprisingly two-dimensional characters while packing every gag, fairy tale character, and pun ever invented into a hilariously amusing story with a surprisingly dynamic climax. If you can't see the humor in the werewolves, elves, fairies, trolls, dwarves and blind woodsmen that traipse across the screen, you won't understand the messages that the film also has to offer about family, friendship, loving compassion, and forgiveness.
I liked the production for more than just amazing special effects, a dozen laughs a minute, and some memorable characters. The premise appealed to me merely for the psychological struggle that went on in each of the characters. For Virginia it's a painful loss from her childhood. For Tony it's realizing where he has failed at being a father. For Wolf it's choosing the path of right or wrong and perhaps sacrificing himself in the process. And Prince learns the true meaning of leadership and responsibility. Even the Queen has a few things to face. The humor lightens what is in actuality a very deep and emotional drama flowing under the pretense of fairy tale likeness. It's a captivating and highly entertaining saga of mystery, magic, and romance that actually leaves you with something to think about. Hidden beneath the silliness are true lessons about learning to trust yourself and others, forgiveness, not fleeing from your problems, and being courageous even when the stakes are down. Now that's magic.
Innuendos, a suggestive shepherdess, and a scene handled delicately in the woods where two characters tousle. They giggle, nip, and roll around before the camera cuts out, returning to find them straggling into camp disheveled and exhausted. (Later one implies they'll have to get married to give their child a proper upbringing.)
Language is mild but does include minor abuses of deity.
Many scenes involving a huntsman whose arrows never fail to pierce the heart of a living creature. People are killed by arrows, knifed, attacked by trolls, physically abused with punches and kicks, and poisoned. There are several instances where violence is hinted at but not seen. One chilling instance of a character's past is revealed in which a parent attempted to purposely drown them as a child; this may arouse further caution in wary viewers, since it pits child against parent, which in turn involves some emotionally-intense scenes and pieces of dialogue.
Virginia, Tony, and Wolf have their fortunes told by a gypsy, but the tables turn when the old woman then purposefully places a curse on the heroine. The Queen seeks guidance from Snow White's evil stepmother by visiting her grave. (Whether or not the former Evil Queen is actually dead or not is unknown; but she does move on occasion and speak.)