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‘The Princess’: ‘Brave’ meets ‘Disenchantment’

by Courtney Lanning | July 1, 2022 at 1:31 a.m.
A strong-willed princess (Joey King) is not amused after she refuses to marry a cruel sociopath and gets locked away in a tower for her trouble in 20th Century Studio’s “The Princess.”

Hulu has impressed me with its original films in the last couple of years. In April, I enjoyed "Crush." Today, I'm happy to report "The Princess" is another solid offering from the (can we call it a "legacy"?) streaming platform. And in August, I'm looking forward to "Prey."

Disney is in an interesting spot with Hulu, as it already has its own proprietary streaming platform in Disney+, but it still has a majority ownership in Hulu. So what content do you put on what is essentially your secondary streaming platform when you're trying to build your own family-friendly service full of Marvel and Star Wars goodies?

Answer? Everything else. This is the category "The Princess" falls into as a dark fantasy that's just a little too bloody and violent for the House of Mouse's name-brand streaming service. Hulu is the perfect home for director Le-Van Kiet's delightfully violent little film.

"The Princess" follows an unnamed princess (Joey King) in an unspecified kingdom who flees a marriage she did not ask for and wakes up chained in a tower after being drugged. It wastes no time getting the party started as two men come in to check on the princess, and she kills them, dislocating a finger to get one hand out of the cuffs she has been placed in.

From there, she's stabbing guards in the eye with her hairpin, breaking jaws and noses with her chain, and kicking guys out of the tower to their death in the moat hundreds of feet below. It's fantastic and immediately sets the tone for this movie.

The story for this film is extremely simple, and I admired that. This isn't "Game of Thrones" or "Shadow and Bone" where viewers will have to remember distant kingdoms and 50 characters.

We learn through quick flashbacks the princess was supposed to marry a cruel lord named Julius (Dominic Cooper) since her father had no sons and no heir. When the princess fled the ceremony, breaking off the wedding, Julius invaded the castle with his men and captured it and her family.

The princess has to fight her way down the tower -- sneaking between walls, killing more men in equally gruesome ways -- and rescue her family.

Through more flashbacks, it's revealed the princess grew up wanting to be a knight and was taught to fight by a family friend named Linh (Veronica Ngo). Of course, her father, the king, forbids this, refusing to send his child off to war but instead promising her to the bedroom of a stranger.

There's not much depth to the men in this movie. They're just bodies for the princess to run her blade through and pile up in the courtyard. Julius is just a generic villain seeking the crown.

But that's fine because "The Princess" isn't trying to build an epic world full of rich history and detail. Writers Ben Lustig and Jake Thornton quickly establish they're here to tell a tight story about a (rightfully) violent lady trying to save her family and home. They want audiences to focus on the bloodshed as they lean hard into style and purposefully forsake substance.

And the fight choreography is the best part of this movie. The sword fights are shot well courtesy of cinematographer Lorenzo Senatore, and King looks fantastic slaying her foes. She stabs, she slashes, she gouges. It's like seeing Princess Bean from Netflix's "Disenchantment" come to life on the big screen with a splash of Princess Merida from "Brave" mixed in. King is delightful whether she's aggressively screaming and riding a falling body down several flights of stairs or snatching a tankard of ale from a table of guards and belching to their apparent delight. King sells it all and drives "The Princess" forward for around an hour-and-a-half.

Ngo also looks great fighting alongside King. They make a solid duo.

It's fortunate for "The Princess" that King and Ngo look so good slaying their enemies because there are a few moments where the movie's budget limitations show. It's nothing ruinous, but when a guard catches fire, and I can see easily spot where the flames were digitally edited, it took me out of the scene momentarily.

Mostly, though, I appreciate how tight "The Princess" kept to its narrative. No wasted time with unwanted narration or sowing seeds of some epic tale. The writers produced this script with the philosophy of, "I'm here for a good time, not a long time," and the movie is made better for it.

"The Princess" is available on Hulu today. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've gotta get back to waiting for Hulu's "Predator" prequel, "Prey," one of my most anticipated movies for the back half of 2022.

Print Headline: ‘The Princess’: ‘Brave’ meets ‘Disenchantment’


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