If adult fairytales rock your inner-child boat then director Matteo Garrone’s Tale of Tales is the one for you. Inspired by the fairytales of Italian folklorist Giambattista Basile, here we have three stories that revolves around a king (John C. Reilly) who must slay a sea monster to grant the bitter wish of his queen (Salma Hayek) who remains unfazed when the ‘Until the death do us part’ comes sooner than she expected. In a neighbouring kingdom, a flea is being baby-fathered to gigantic proportions by the King of Highhills (Toby Jones) and; in another, the inexhaustive, highly-sexed King of Strongcliff (Vincent Casell) unexpectedly falls for one of his many conquests, giving a new meaning to cougar dating.
Written by Edorado Albinati, you have all the elements of a fantastical story. There are the obligatory sorcerers, fairies, scary monsters, hideous ogres and the like, with a delicious topping of freaks, freakiness, blood and gore, and the ridiculous, all of which would make the Brothers Grim weep. If grotesque, fantastical, entertainment is what you are looking for, then this is it. However, if you are seeking a solid storyline, then it is best that you rub a genie in a bottle and make a wish.
This boils down to the main storyline, the weakest of the three fables– all of which are awkwardly cobbled together. By the end of the film, you may wish that it had made the cutting room floor, focusing on any of the two hilarious, well-written subplots. Despite the presence of Reily and Hayek, who excel in their roles, the promising start of the main story drags us into a predictable, dull tale dragged down further into the abyss by twin actors Christian and Jonah Lees with the acting skills of Pinocchio.
The film is further let down by the final scene which, of course, serves only to bring the three stories together but it is as uneventful as any kid’s fairytale with the well versed ‘.. and they lived happily ever after’.
However, that said, the film is certainly worth watching. Darkly comic, playful and mischievous, Tale Of Tales is magical and captivates you to the bitter end.