Back when I was, yikes, about 15 or so, Hallmark put together a miniseries that aired on NBC called The 10th Kingdom. I, like so many other girls, fell in love with Wolf and the whole story (as if I needed anything else to tantalize me when it comes to leaving this place and stumbling into a fantasy world). But then it was over and I went back to my life, never forgetting it of course.
Then I graduated from graduate school with (what else?) a degree in Writing Popular Fiction, and what does my older sister get me as a present?
The 10th Kingdom. If I may - *joygasm!*
The 10th Kingdom is the story about a girl named Virginia and her father Tony. The two live in New York, with pretty average lives. At least, until somewhere in the 9 Kingdoms, Prince Wendell, the grandson of Queen Snow White, is transformed into a dog by his wicked stepmother and during the chase, runs through a magic mirror into Central Park. And right into Virginia. After that, nothing is the same. Trolls and a half-wolf appropriately named Wolf come after him, and eventually the whole posse end up going back through the mirror where everything from the golden touch to magic mushrooms await. It's up to Virginia to save the 9 Kingdoms, but what can a waitress do against such powerful magic? Especially when there's something very familiar about the evil queen...
That's just the story in a nutshell. There is a whole lot going on in here. A lot. Trolls, beanstalks, goblins, dwarves making magic mirrors, a dead dragon or two, a slightly deranged huntsman, a Rapunzel moment, two prison breakouts, a magic kissing town, wishes being granted, Cinderella makes an appearance, and there's even a small part for the Tooth Fairy.
As a miniseries, it's about 417 minutes long, split up among 3 discs, and with a few extras thrown in (such as The Making Of and a map showing you all the 9 Kingdoms and who rules them). While the story moves right along, you get enough character development going on to care about the people involved, and get plenty of surprises along the way.
The cast is stellar. Virginia is played by Kimberly Williams (Father of the Bride), who does a great job portraying the waitress who has real difficulty in believing all this magic, and who has a very scarred past concerning her mother. Sometimes you may not like Virginia (a lot of us girls were always yelling at her to just make out with Wolf already), as she can be moody and snippy, but overall she tries, and she does what's right. John Larroquette is Tony, her father, a bumbling guy who may not always be on the right path, but he's doing his best in a world filled with magic and evil curses and a dog-prince. He's a pretty fun guy and provides a lot of comic relief.
Wolf, ah yes, Wolf. Scott Cohen does a fantastic job as a half-wolf person. No, he's not all furry like the wolfman, but he does have a tail, his eyes occasionally turn gold, and he has little wolfy tendencies, such as howling or even when he cries. Cohen was just on the ball with this character, it's so great. He's just so much fun. He's got some great lines and really delivers. It's pretty impossible not to love Wolf.
Everyone else performs just as well. Dianne Wiest as the evil queen has that perfect sinister vibe going on, Ed O'Neill makes a fantastic Troll King, Rutger Hauer is the Huntsman who may have gone a little off the edge, and I really have to give a shoutout to the three trolls Burly (Hugh O'Gorman), Blabberwort (Dawnn Lewis), and Bluebell (Jeremiah Birkett) because they were all just so much fun. Of course, one can't forget Daniel Lapaine as Prince, both the dog and as the human...in both instances. Oh, and for those that know him, Warwick Davis makes an appearance as Acorn (and any fantasy movie lover should know who Warwick Davis is).
Usually for a miniseries the acting is better than say, a made for TV movie, though it may not always be the case. Here it's all pretty much just right and thanks to a good script, it all comes together. Yay!
Setting, Costumes, Effects, and The Like
While most of this was filmed in the UK, there are some parts that are done in France and Austria. The combination really makes the Kingdoms look real, especially when the characters enter Kissing Town and then later on when they're climbing up some rather steep hills (that has to be in Austria - the mountains are just way too big). Everything is so lush and green, it really does seem like they're no longer anywhere in this dimension. Good choices, whoever was behind them.
While I do think Virginia could have changed her clothes at least once or twice, especially when bumping into a town and having money, the clothing everyone had was right on the money. I loved Wolf's outfits. Interestingly enough, he got to change his a few times, and in some cases, I wonder how. I assume he stole them. Haha. I enjoyed the trolls' mishmash outfits as well. Very unique and somehow very troll-like if trolls were to ever exist and be interested in shoes.
I don't know what kind of budget the makers of this series had, but they certainly made the most out of their money, because there are never really any times you can laugh at the props or effects. In fact, since this was made in 2000, it had plenty of opportunity to utilize fancy CGI, which, I am proud to say, it did not. There are a few instances of CGI, but they were the sort of things you can't really do otherwise, and they were pretty good, like little talking birds. Otherwise, it's all makeup and old school effects, which I adore. Cheers!
Oh. Drool. Actually, I didn't really start drooling until I actually got the soundtrack, which was for completely different reasons. While you watch the movie, it's mostly background goodness, and works very well. It isn't until you get the music on your own that you can really appreciate it, as it's very good and works nicely with the whole movie, from the harp music for Kissing Town to the really fun opening song, "Wishing on a Star" sung by Miriam Stockley. And yes, I own the soundtrack.
Nicole, is there anything you didn't like about this movie?
Uh....no. Haha. Ok, there are a few parts that kind of make you smirk and roll your eyes and think, "Wow, that's kinda goofy." I have to say the singing ring that Wolf buys takes the cake. It's just...no. Just, no. I'd never put that thing on, personally. It's annoying and stupid, though there are a lot of people out there who think it's cute. I also could have done without the little CGI heart butterflies in Kissing Town, but hey, magic kissing town - what are you going to do? And actually, while Prince Wendell was human but with a dog mind, he did kind of bug me because of his doggy tendencies because it just looked stupid with his tongue hanging out. Of course, a man with a dog brain probably would act just like that (how am I supposed to know), though as a fan of dogs, I kept thinking things like, "Dogs aren't going to pant all the time. They pant when they're hot or happy. Why is he always panting?"
And yes, I have to say it, I do have a bit of a problem with Camryn Manheim as Snow White. People hemmed and hawed about her being a plumper woman than the Snow White we're all used to hearing about. Personally, when I first saw the series, I initially thought she was Rosie O'Donnell. At first, yes, I too thought it was kind of weird they chose Manheim to play Snow White, and for all the same reasons as everyone else. But watching it now, I realize what the issue is. Snow White lived a looong time (Cinderella is at least 200 years old here), and no woman is going to stay slender and whatnot forever (not to mention the possibility of different views on women's sizes, as back in time larger women were sexier). Whatever her case before and then when she died, I think my main issue is her outfit. She's still dressed like a young girl, complete with a bow in her hair. It just looks....not right. I think if perhaps they'd done her up in more queenly or even fairy godmother style regalia, it would have worked for must just fine. As it stands now, it's just odd. But oh well.
But the script was just too good, there wasn't enough CGI to drive me batty, and because I get to watch this in one big sitting (if I want) instead of 45 minute sections (as it was on TV), I can enjoy it more. I remember when watching it in its miniseries form, and my father and I got really annoyed at Virginia's mom issues. It seemed like it went on forever, when in fact, it doesn't really surface until rather late in the game and works just fine, even though you'd think she'd finally let go after the third murder attempt, but hey, who am I to judge? I still have a mom who's perfectly normal.
Really, this is a modern-day tale with the spirit of the original Grimm Brothers' tales (which I own - that's right, all of them) where the Snow White's evil stepmother was forced to dance in red hot metal shoes, wolves are burned at the stake, people actually do die, and magic is friggin' dangerous. They leave this one off with a semi-open end, indicating there might have been a second one, but sadly it never happened, which is a shame as I'm sure it would have been just as much fun as this one.
Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Better than Watching TV
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