‘The King’s Daughter’ Review: Sinking or Swimming at Versailles

Here’s a tragic tale: Once upon a time, an action-adventure drama began production. Nearly eight years, a title change and a new distribution plan later, the movie finally sees the light of day. Nothing about it feels worth the wait.

Puerile and plodding, “The King’s Daughter” — originally called “The Moon and the Sun,” and based on the fantasy novel of that name — begins as the plucky Marie-Josephe (Kaya Scodelario) is recruited to Versailles as a royal composer. Of meager origins, our young heroine thrills at palace life, and even establishes a rapport with France’s august sovereign, King Louis XIV (a puckering Pierce Brosnan). There appears to be an oddly coquettish slant to their relationship until, what a surprise: Marie-Josephe discovers that she’s not an orphaned paysan but Louis’s estranged child. (It isn’t a stretch to guess that titling the movie “The King’s Daughter” was a Hail Mary measure to undercut the principals’ accidental framing as a romantic couple-to-be.)

Oh, and there’s also a C.G.I. mermaid (Fan Bingbing) being held captive until an imminent eclipse, when the king will order her sacrifice in exchange for immortality.

Directed by Sean McNamara, the movie seems to aspire to the grand, squally allure of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series. And shot partly on location at Versailles, the visuals are sometimes splendid. When, for example, Marie-Josephe and a ship captain frolic through Hameau de la Reine, the setting’s natural beauty allows for a momentary respite — until the scene ends, and we’re thrust back into storybook inanity.

The King’s Daughter
Rated PG. Running time: 1 hour 37 minutes. In theaters.

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