It opens with a song…
I’m wishing on a star
To follow where you are
I’m wishing on a dream
To follow what it means
And I’ll wish on all the rainbows that I see
I wish for all the people who dream a dream
Once upon a time, an evil queen cursed a prince—transforming him into a dog—he escaped and found the tenth kingdom…our world. This is just the beginning of this charming fairy tale inspired miniseries that aired on television back in 1999. With the recent TV series Once Upon a Time and Grimm premiering this week, I’m reminded of The Tenth Kingdom.
New York waitress (Kimberly Williams) befriends the dog, who is really Prince Wendell, scion of the House of White. Through a magic mirror, Virginia and the dog prince return to the Land of the Nine Kingdoms, where childhood fairy tales are very real indeed. Virginia’s father (John Larroquette) soon follows in search of both riches and his daughter, and they all meet up with the Wolf (Scott Cohen) who may or may not be trusted. Attempting to bring about the destruction of the Nine Kingdoms, the evil queen (Dianne Wiest) may have a surprising connection to Virginia and her father. With appearances by Ann-Margret (Cinderella), Rutger Hauer (the Huntsman), Camryn Manheim (Snow White) and Ed O’Neill (as the Troll King), The Tenth Kingdom was a wonderful fantasy epic.
The opening sequence—beginning with a shot of the late twin towers—shows New York City as it transforms into a fairy tale world. Then Virginia begins her narration drawing us into the ordinary lives of her and her father. Soon, though, the scene shifts to another world. We see a bored prince in his carriage and trolls breaking an evil queen out of her prison. The prince arriving at the same prison is transformed and escapes. But there is another prisoner…the big bad wolf. The queen releases him, charging him with finding the dog prince. The wolf passes through the mirror into our world in pursuit and is soon on a trail that leads to Virginia.
This Hallmark series is light-hearted and humorous. It was produced the Halmis, the father and son team behind such lavish and acclaimed miniseries as Gulliver’s Travels and The Odyssey.
Williams and Larroquette give fine performances—Dianne Wiest as the evil queen is excellent—but Scott Cohen as the Wolf really steals the show here. His characterization might seem over the top at first, but it quickly grows on you. Struggling against his nature—wolves are supposed to be the bad guys in fairy tales, right?—Wolf begins to fall in love with Virginia. A romance as good as any fairy tale. But having given his will to the evil queen, will he end up the hero after all?
Elements of familiar fairy tales abound. Some in fun and surprising new ways. Others are adapted to suit this conception of the fairy tale realm. The Tenth Kingdom is a delight for children of all ages and certainly for those who enjoy fairy tales. It is a shame then that there was never a continuation of the series, as is suggested by Virginia’s narration ending this “first book” of the ten kingdoms.
The Ten Kingdom is available on DVD, but not readily so. A trip to the local library may yield a copy for rent. There was also a tie-in book released, but it’s a novelization—apparently based on an earlier draft of the script—with a few minor differences to the story.
UPDATE (4/5/2013): The 10th Kingdom is once again available, having been re-released on March 12, 2013.