Mermaid Fairy Tale Lacks Enchantment



Pierce Brosnan’s regal peacock strut can’t save a lackluster fairy tale. The King’s Daughter is a long-shelved Renaissance fantasy resplendent with mermaids, palace intrigue, and a spirited heroine. Adapted from the award-winning novel “The Moon and the Sun” by Vonda N. McIntyre, the film fails to enchant on any level. It’s a curious disappointment because some pieces do work. The cast, production design, and visual effects are decent; but the narrative flounders with a thoroughly uninspiring delivery.

Pierce Brosnan stars as Louis XIV (14th), the exceedingly lavish Sun King of France, who in this imagining becomes obsessed with immortality. He’s convinced by the cruel Dr. Labarthe (Pablo Schreider) that a mermaid’s heart will grant him eternal life. Louis’ trusted spiritual advisor, Père La Chaise (William Hurt), warns him that such actions are an abomination against the will of God. Louis ignores his confessor and sends a seaman, Yves De La Croix (Benjamin Walker), to capture the magical creature (Fan Bingbing).

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Kaya Scodelario co-stars as Marie-Josèphe, Louis’ secret illegitimate daughter who has been raised in a convent since birth. A talented musician with a rebellious streak, she’s stunned by the summons to Versailles; completely unaware of her royal heritage. Louis is taken by his daughter’s talent and beauty. Marie-Josèphe causes quite a stir amongst the nobles. She hears the mermaid’s sorrowful singing and soon discovers her father’s ghastly plan.

The King’s Daughter establishes a significant subplot then abandons it. The film sets up two villains, Dr. Labarthe and the arrogant Duke Lintillac (Ben Lloyd-Hughes); who Louis engineers as a wealthy suitor for his daughter. Labarthe’s mermaid machinations follow through, but Lintillac vanishes like a fart in the wind. He disappears for the third act. It’s odd to cut a character after giving him such a sizable chunk of screen time.

The King’s Daughter should have been wondrous family-oriented escapism. Instead, it’s a blasé and tepid experience that’s remarkably forgettable. The film isn’t awful, but you expect much more from a fairy tale narrated by the legendary Julie Andrews. Director Sean McNamara (Bratz, Soul Surfer), a former actor and uber-producer of adolescent media, has to shoulder most of the blame for such a flat outcome. He has notable talent, great source material, a script co-written by Ang Lee’s creative partner James Schamus (Brokeback Mountain), and somehow makes a flavorless stew. The director bears responsibility for a film’s vision and tone. McNamara was clearly the wrong filmmaker for this story.

I am an unabashed Pierce Brosnan fan. I did get a minor kick out of seeing him in ridiculously extravagant costumes, eighties hair band wig, and a haughty demeanor. He gives King Louis a personality that’s disdainful and somewhat likable at the same time. It’s a good performance from a veteran actor, but not nearly enough to prop up the film. The King’s Daughter needs a truckload of more pixie dust to achieve that goal. The King’s Daughter is a production of Bliss Media and Brookwell McNamara Entertainment. It will be released theatrically on January 21st from Gravitas Ventures.

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Julian Roman
(1441 Articles Published)

Film critic, raconteur, praying for dolphins to grow thumbs and do better.

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