Rating: 3 out of 5.

The King’s Daughter is a charming fairy tale style movie the whole family can enjoy. Director Sean McNamara, who has done a variety of films from Disney Channel originals to Baby Geniuses sequels to everything in between, directs from a script based on the novel “The Moon and the Sun” by Vonda N. McIntyre. Kaya Scodelario is the perfect choice as the lead, Marie-Josephe. Mermaids, intrigue, and scandal are afoot!

Set in 1684 Versailles among the reign of King Louis XIV (a smartly-cast Pierce Brosnan), the movie begins with a simple “once upon a time.” This instantly clued me in on the type of tone we would be approaching here. Realism is not on the agenda; rather, this “fish out of water” tale imagines that King Louis’s illegitimate daughter, Marie-Josephe (Scodelario), has been scooped up from obscurity. Having been abandoned to live her days at a convent, Marie-Josephe comes back into the fray only because Louis needs to pay off war debts. With a solar eclipse fast approaching as well as the King’s birthday, he sets his sights on the lost city of Atlantis. The key to immortality may lie in a captured mermaid, but Marie-Josephe’s instant connection to the creature threatens the King’s tyrannous lust for power.

Channeling The Princess Diaries, Marie-Josephe’s assimilation from the nunnery to the monarchy is fun to watch. It becomes even more hilariously delicious that Julie Andrews is the narrator, having played a royal queen character in that 2001 movie. The people are obsessed with Marie-Josephe’s unique story. The King admires her music and tenacity, and tasks Marie-Josephe to write a suite. The King is a far less-developed character than his daughter, with those around her including love interest and sea captain Yves (Benjamin Walker) and the mermaid (Fan Bingbing) adding to Marie-Josephe’s personal journey. 

The King’s Daughter is brimming with cutesy goodwill. I think it is ultimately a movie that kids will love and adults will enjoy. It features an adequate amount of whimsical magic to tide over the most demanding viewers of fantasy and romance. I have no idea why the film, which was shot in early 2014, has sat on the shelf this long. Is it life-changing? Certainly not. However, for the right subset of viewers, they may indeed fall in love with The King’s Daughter.

The King’s Daughter begs for justice to the mermaids when it debuts in theaters on Friday, January 21st.

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