A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Tale of Tales is an anthology based on old Italian fairy tales, but it's not for kids! Violence and sexual content are both strong -- several women appear topless, and there are a couple of steamy sex scenes and a character with many lovers. On the gory side of things, there's quite a bit of blood, and an ogre attacks and kills several characters, snapping their necks. There's stabbing and slicing with blades, and a violent fight with a sea monster. There's also some creepy imagery, and woman is taken against her will. Two women magically become pregnant. The word "bastard" is used per it's actual definition; there's no other language, and substance use and consumerism aren't issues. The movie could captivate older viewers with its quirkiness, but it's a little short on adventure, wit, and warmth.
What's the story?
In TALE OF TALES, a queen (Salma Hayek) desperately wants a child. An old man tells her that she can become pregnant if her husband (John C. Reilly) kills a sea monster and she consumes its heart, as prepared by a virgin. Years later, the queen has a son (Christian Lees), but somehow he also has a twin (Jonah Lees), born of the virgin girl. Meanwhile, another king (Toby Jones) raises a giant flea, which eventually leads to his terror-stricken daughter's marriage to an ogre. And another king (Vincent Cassel) pursues a woman whom he thinks is beautiful, but she's really an old hag who has magically transformed. She succeeds in becoming queen, until her lonely sister (Shirley Henderson) interferes.
Is it any good?
Well-made and proudly weird, this collection of fairy tales is missing something; it could have been funny, sexy, or thrilling, but instead it's clinical, like spying on bugs under a microscope. Director Matteo Garrone once made a terrific modern Italian crime movie (Gomorrah), but otherwise, he's struggled to find the right tone for his movies (The Embalmer, Reality, etc.), and TALE OF TALES is yet another example of missing the mark.
In switching between the three main threads, the film stays too long in each, and the movie never really builds an enticing rhythm. Likewise, none of the tales stands out; they all have the same constant thrum, and nothing perks up the storytelling. Some bits, such as the sea monster or the giant flea, feel like they should elicit some kind of reaction, but they just don't; it's like they're museum pieces. Ultimately, this is an interesting but lackluster attempt to bring Giambattista Basile's tales to an American audience.
Talk to your kids about ...
What role does sex play in the movie? What does it mean to the characters? Parents, talk to your kids about your own values regarding sex and relationships.
Why do you think fairy tales have such long lives? Why are they passed down from generation to generation? What purpose do they serve?
What's the message of these particular fairy tales? What lessons are learned? Who pays the price?
- In theaters: April 22, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: September 6, 2016
- Cast: Salma Hayek, Toby Jones, Vincent Cassel
- Director: Matteo Garrone
- Studio: IFC Films
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Fairy Tales
- Run time: 133 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: sexuality, nudity, some violence and bloody images
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.