Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 27, 2022)
With 2022’s The King’s Daughter, we get a look at historical characters through the prism of fantasy. The story takes us back to France circa the early 18th century.
King Louis XIV (Pierce Brosnan) becomes obsessed with the pursuit of immortality. He sends a crew led by Captain Yves De La Croix (Benjamin Walker) to find a mermaid (Fan Bingbing) whose powers Louis believes will allow him to live forever.
In the meantime, Louis’s illegitimate daughter Marie-Josèphe (Kaya Scodelario) comes to the king’s court and creates immediate disruptions in a variety of ways. Louis confronts conflicts he experiences with Marie-Josèphe as he also attempts to discover the secrets of the mermaid.
That synopsis makes it sound like Daughter essentially packs two separate movies into one. A tale about the mermaid could fit one tale while the drama between Louis and Marie-Josèphe could offer another.
Does Daughter manage to join these seemingly disparate halves in a satisfying manner? Not really, as the end result turns into a mess.
Based on a novel by Vonda McIntyre, perhaps this worked better in text form. However, the film lacks coherence and feels disjointed.
It never comes as a good sign when you find out a movie remained on the shelves for years. Daughter actually shot in 2014, so the studio sat on it for nearly eight years before they finally dumped it into the marketplace.
I can’t blame Universal for their unwillingness to unleash this turkey into the wild. The big question becomes why they bothered to give it a theatrical distribution at all – why not let it pass away peacefully as a direct-to-video release?
Because Daughter pulled in less than $2 million in the US, it clearly didn’t make a dent on audiences. I can’t blame moviegoers, as nothing about the film works.
Daughter throws approximately 47 different genres into the mix and never figures out a way to blend them. Instead, the stylistic choices simply feel random and incoherent.
We get a wide series of stabs here. At varying times, we get romantic drama, coming of age narrative, swashbuckling adventure, father/daughter tale, fantasy, and buddy comedy – and I probably forgot other domains.
Perhaps superior filmmakers could pull off all these different genres, but those behind Daughter can’t do so. The various choices butt up against each other awkwardly and without natural flow.
This means Daughter comes across as though edited with a chainsaw. Nothing meshes as we proceed through a series of barely connected scenelets on a path to nowhere.
Shockingly bad computer animation doesn’t help. Anytime we see the mermaid, we immediately find ourselves put off by how plastic and unconvincing this character looks.
If other aspects of the movie succeeded, the CG might become a real problem. However, here the bad effects simply add to the massive pile of flaws.
Somewhere buried deep, one might find the potential for a compelling fantasy via The King’s Daughter. As executed, however, the movie turns into a borderline unwatchable waste of talent.