Mermaids, swordfights, and a "surprise, you're a princess!" story are nectar to certain kids. And this historical fantasy adventure makes everything all the more enticing with gorgeous production design, costumes, and cinematography. While keeping things tween-friendly, the script cleverly nods at what those familiar with the Sun King know about the monarch and his reign, including his narcissism, his womanizing, his trail of illegitimate children, and even a scandal involving a quest for youth. Kids may be inspired to hit the books/Google to find out more, but just know that Louis was a complicated guy, and not all of the stories out there about him are as kid-safe as this film.
Director Sean McNamara is an ace at turning true stories about teens overcoming adversity into films lauded for being both entertaining and appropriate for families (Soul Surfer, Spare Parts, The Miracle Season). Here, he takes a fun tweak on creating a period fairy tale while still using real-life elements. Part of that is the inclusion of merpeople, which was accepted as a very real possibility in the 1600s. That said, The King's Daughter was made in the 2000s, so the fact that it embraces a mythological creature as truth and leans into the skepticism of procedures during the medical Renaissance makes it feel like it might be trying to make a statement about modern-day science. While the character of Dr. Labarthe (Pablo Schreiber) is most definitely drawing the wrong conclusions, characters repeatedly make comments around the idea that science, especially in regards to medicine, can't be trusted. The King's Daughter was completed in 2015, seemingly delayed time and time again for reasons out of the production's control. These moments stand out unpleasantly in an otherwise magical adventure.