'The Princess' review: Flimsy R-rated fairy tale doesn't enchant
Courtesy of Hulu/20th Century Studios
Essentially knocking off its own formula, Disney (or, in this case 20th Century Studios), tries putting an R-rated spin on the PG-rated fairy tale it helped create in the straight-to-streaming one-off “The Princess” and the results are far from enchanting. Sleeping Beauty this is not, “The Princess” is a bloody, ulta-violent and bizzare riff on the mundane plotting of Disney princess stories. Admittledy, Le-Van Kiet’s taunt 90-minute actonier throws some good punches and thanks to lead star Joey King’s athleticism, the opening sequence involving herself and two goons amps up the adrenaline, but the campiness, which gives big Disney Channel Original Movie meets “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” vibes, plus a smarmy-I’m-only-here-for-the-paycheck performance by Dominic Cooper doesn’t make it the opportune choice for audiences over the long holiday weekend.
The violence is kinetic and the actors maneuver around the laughably silly production design, it looks like a C-level “Game of Thrones” variant, with ease, though “The Princess” doesn’t have the bravado or spunk writers Ben Lustig and Jake Thronton thinks it does. King plays the titular role, overseeing a stereotypical kingdom where in order for her to rule she must get married (if only mom gave birth to a baby boy!). But this Princess is headstrong about her independence and defies societal norms by refusing to wed the wicked Julius (Cooper). Pissed off, Julius sends a squad of armored baddies to help him take over the kingdom after getting jaded at the altar, but this Princess is trained in martial arts and kung-fu therefore setting the stage for all out brawls as she climbs her way down from the tower, except the violence never arises above cheesy and doesn’t sustain any momentum.
There’s an audience for cheesy action movies or else “The Princess” wouldn’t have gotten made, but outside of King, who makes the most out of her thin backstory which is told via flashback, nobody seems exactly thrilled to be here. In essence, “The Princess” is 90-minutes of wear and tear, beating people into submission as if it were clicking buttons on a video game controller. But unlike “The Raid,” which dealt with similar variations of “I have to fight my way out of this place,” sequences in “The Princess” fail to hammer down the technical aspects, creating a mantra that’s both cheap and unfulfilling. Also, the lack of a decent soundtrack greatly hinders the overall impact.
Kiet’s use of choppy visual effects and the locale (seriously, this thing was filmed where they made “Meet the Spartans”) and quick jump cuts by editor Alex Fenn add insult to injury with the occasional headache. You’ve seen it all played out before with better, calculated precision and under the direction of a filmmaker confident in the movie they’re making. After the initial rush of the hyper violent opening scene eventually fades, “The Princess” settles into an unfocused and chaos riddled period piece that resembles a music video more than a feature film.
THE PRINCESS is now streaming on Hulu.