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Three separate stories, featuring two different kings and one queen, exhibit the extent of their madness and their attempts to either rule over their offspring or those who would dare deny their libido.
Jump Scares, Blood, and Rape
Films like Tale of Tales are the main reason I don’t trek to New York as often as I used to. For to spend two hours with a movie which, at best, has a good score, is ridiculous. I mean, name off whatever actor you will and note their past hits if you want to. I can also point out some films they would love to erase and I’m damn sure this will be put onto each actor’s list.
Main Storyline (with Commentary)
For the Queen of Longtrellis (Salma Hayek) all she wants is a child. In fact, she wants it so bad that just the sight of another woman pregnant could throw her into a fit. Luckily for her, though, one day a necromancer (Franco Pistoni) comes to her castle and convinces her husband, the King of Longtrellis (John C. Reilly) to hunt a sea beast so that his wife can feast on its heart and become pregnant. Something which works but, as Rumpelstiltskin always said in Once Upon a Time, magic comes with a cost. Said cost being, the King must die for the prince to be born. Leaving the Queen a widow and left with an albino child she can sometimes barely control.
Alongside that story is another dealing with a monarch, the King of Highhills (Toby Jones) and his daughter Violet (Bebe Cave). In their case, like with the Queen, one of the major problems is the parent, in this case, the King, being unable to let their child be a young adult. For the queen her problem was letting her son Elias (Christian Lees) be his own man, play with another child who looks like his twin, and accept that she cannot be the boy’s best friend. For the King though it seems he had the usual issue most fathers have in terms of not wanting his little girl to leave the nest too soon nor fall in love with some boy and transfer her affections over to him. Though with him trying to show he is trying, through a test, which an Ogre (Guillaume Delaunay) surprisingly passes, he loses his little girl and is forced to deal with the guilt.
Lastly, there is the King of Strongcliff (Vincent Cassel) who is simply a man whore. In fact, until it is established he is a king, you honestly are left to wonder if perhaps he is simply an aristocrat who loves orgies. However, in what seemed like karma teaching him a lesson, he comes across a woman with a beautiful voice, who just so happens to be old enough to be his grandmother. Said woman, Dora (Hayley Carmichael/ Stacy Martin) is the woman he thinks he truly lusts for. However, upon realization, after having her, she is but an old wrinkly, and quite saggy, old woman, he casts her out a window. Only for a witch (Kathryn Hunter), using breast milk, to turn her into a young woman once more. But with karma taking things out on the King of Strongcliff, so does karma keep an eye on Dora when it comes to her treatment of her sister, who complicated this whole situation, Imma (Shirley Henderson)
The Score: Between a dull storyline and the theater being cold, there were multiple times I was ready and willing to go to sleep. However, the score’s way of building tension and dragging you back in when no one’s performance was doing so, really highlights how important the right background music is.
If The Stories Weren’t Lumped Together, And Were Separate, Some Could Have Worked: A consistent complaint when it comes to movies like this is one being weaker than the other. And while, again, most of them stunk, I do believe if the focus wasn’t spread thin, with the stories barely connected, some could have worked. I think the Longtrellis and Strongcliff are especially strong candidates, though I’m unsure how the Highhills storyline could have been saved. Well, without some moderate retooling of some characters and pushing the importance of others.
Weak Storylines: From Cassel to Jones, to Hayek, there isn’t a story among them which shines. Yes, they have potential in each single one, but sometimes that potential seems more so due to positive thinking than facing what is reality. Take Jones’ character for example, and his kingdom’s storyline. Basically, it is about him falling in love with a flea, his daughter being lost to an ogre, and his daughter escaping the ogre. Which perhaps sounds interesting in writing, seeing a princess escape an ogre, but it doesn’t play out as something compelling. Believe me. What we are given is a princess whose idea of love comes from romance novels of the time and when she is won by someone who looks like a villain’s sidekick, she throws a fit. Which, at first, leaves you with mixed feelings since the guy maybe weird but it seems he is trying. However, after what looked like a rape scene, those feelings are retracted.
Then when it comes to Strongcliff, while there is an interesting story there, once you become subject to all the breasts, ass, and sexual debauchery, on top of seeing elderly naked women, your interest are already fleeting. Combine that with him chasing after an elderly woman he never saw, throwing her out a window when he realizes she isn’t young, then what comes after, and while one could argue, on its own, his tale could have been beefed up to something decent, you still may have a hard sell.
Thus leaving the Longtrellis kingdom, which competes so hard with the Highhills to become the worse storyline. For while both the Highhills and Longtrellis suffer from bad CGI, the Longtrellis features an obsessive mother and her saying Elias, at various levels enough times for it to haunt your dreams, just becomes immensely annoying. In fact, I honestly can’t think of a way that could be retooled into something decent.