What. The. Hell. Was. That? Originally shot way back in 2014, this movie languished on the shelves until now because of. . . well, reasons. I guess it’s a really slow week at the box office with no top-drawer films to give it competition, right?
Based on Vonda N. McIntyre’s 1997 novel, The Moon and the Sun, this film has a long and troubled history, including a revolving door of directors, producers, writers, actors, and film distributors. Wow! It’s a wonder it ever got made at all! Anyway, it opens with Versailles, the obscenely wealthy palace of King Louis XIV (Pierce Brosnan) who, after a failed assassination attempt, craves immortality. Ruthless Dr. Labarthe (Pablo Schrieber) says to achieve this, he has to capture a live mermaid and then kill it during an eclipse. Sounds simple, right? Welp, beef-cake sailor, Yves DeLaCroix (Benjamin Walker) grabs a female mermaid (a CGI Fan Bingbing) near Atlantis and then keeps her in a secret underground grotto near the palace.
Meanwhile (as narrator Julie Andrews says), the King’s estranged daughter, Marie-Josèphe (Kaya Scodelario) returns home after being shuttered away in a convent for decades. Why was she exiled and never told she was the King’s daughter? And why doesn’t the King tell anyone that Marie-Josèphe is her kid once she’s back? That’s never really explained. Anyway, Marie-Josèphe has a knack for two things: music composing and communicating with mermaids, something that the King and his court priest (William Hurt) find abhorrent. After all, it’s a fish, not a person, and about to be sacrificed for France! Besides, the King has other plans, like marrying off his newfound daughter to the snarky Jean-Michel Lintillac (Ben Lloyd-Hughes) for a convenient marriage-of-money deal.
But since this mermaid can sing, heal wounds, and “talk” to others, it’s up to Marie-Josèphe and her new boyfriend, Yves, to rescue her from the deadly clutches of Dr. Labarthe and his sushi knives. This movie is like if Disney had remade one of its animated feature films into a live-action movie, and failed miserably at doing it. Screenwriters Barry Berman (Benny & Joon) and James Schmaus (Ice Storm) have taken the novel and chopped it up into a hodgepodge of one-part Hallmark/Lifetime movie-of-the-week and two-parts faith-based film, as God and religion play a key part in this rom-fantasy fairy tale. The dialogue is simple, silly, and dumbed-downed for little kids since, I’m guessing, this was their target audience.
Director Sean McNamara (kids TV shows like Even Stevens and That’s So Raven) knows all about simple as this movie has bare-bones camerawork, even when shooting on location in the eye-popping Palace of Versailles in France. I can forgive his plain & ordinary camera work, but not the disgraceful editing and mind-boggling awful segues! Practically every scene begins and ends so abruptly, so jarring, that you have no idea what just happened. It’s as if this was a two-and-a-half-hour movie and someone badly chopped up to fit a 90-minute time slot! Ghastly! And don’t me started on the extensive plot holes! Thank goodness many of the actors come out of this in one piece.
Pierce Brosnan, sporting a ridiculously long flowing mane of hair, plays King Louis with such overt suave and pomp, ya gotta give the man credit. On the opposite end is William Hurt, who you can clearly see is phoning in his part. But then you have beautiful and spunky Kaya Scodelario who sells her part as if she was going for an Oscar, bless her heart. She and her fun handmaiden, Magali (Crystal Clarke), make quite the pair. I just wish her boy-toy, Yves (Walker), wasn’t so wooden and two-dimensional like many of the other supporting cast. Oh, and for some giggly laughs, check out the background extras. They look like preening rejects from hellish glamour magazine covers. Hilarious! This film should last about two weeks, then go straight to cable in about three months.
**Now showing only in theaters