For the entire month of April, Cinefessions will once again be locked inside The Asylum, reviewing tons of releases by the famed studio. Every weekday throughout April you will get another Asylum review.
When you want a mockbuster to go up against Disney’s Maleficent, to whom do you turn? Why The Asylum of course. And they turned to Capser Van Dien to direct and star in this take on the fairytale. Known mainly for his role in Starship Troopers and Sleepy Hollow, with a lot of indie work after, he’s only been behind the camera twice, and this was his first outing. For a limited budget, and not a lot to work with, Sleeping Beauty isn’t half bad. That’s also giving in and saying that this isn’t great either. It’s not your typical Saturday SyFy film, though, as there was some careful thought to the casting, as well as filming locations, shooting this on location in Bulgaria, and in a unique castle built only 20 years ago.
This take on a classic tale follows a heroic prince and his sidekick as they race to save Princess Dawn, cursed by an evil queen to eternal sleep. Our heroic prince is actually a major jerk, and the real hero of the story is the sidekick, in this case the prince’s whipping boy. Finn Jones, who is Loras Tyrell in Game of Thrones, plays the whipping boy. The evil Queen Tambria is played masterfully by Olivia d’Abo, who I know from Conan the Destroyer, and her several guest appearances as Vincent D’onofrio’s foil in Law and Order: Criminal Intent. She does a great job as the villain of the fairytale, especially given the material she has to work with. The script is pretty basic and doesn’t lend itself to a lot of great dialogue.
I’ve actually watched Sleeping Beauty before, and I gave it a slight bump in rating since then. It might have something to do with the other films I’ve watched back-to-back, and this one being a bit better, but I also enjoyed it overall. It’s a basic fairytail that manages to get the right feel across through the whole film, and at least looks decent. The filming locations are great, and I do love the castle they filmed this at. It is definitely unique. This helped with some of the cinematography that tends to pull back a bit from the actors to take in the scenery. It helps to make it feel less like they shot it really quick to get it over with as fast as humanly possible.
Let’s move on to the negative side of Sleeping Beauty. While there are a few decent actors in this, there are also some really wooden and downright dull performances. These are mostly from the actors without much to do, so it’s short lived, but one of those is the prince, who can’t seem to give a steady bit through the whole film. Some scenes he’s decent in, especially the ones where he’s trying to be an ass, but when he actually goes full on, it’s flat and ends up hurting a lot of the scenes later on. Then there is the effects work. Some of the effects work is much better than others, but it’s really uneven. There are a number of shots where people have to interact with the CG monsters, and it just doesn’t work. On top of that, we have some zombies that are barely made up to look dead, which doesn’t lend to the credibility of the advancing undead horde very much.
Still, though, Sleeping Beauty is shot surprisingly well, and mostly on a Steadicam, in decent looking locations for the story. The only thing that is wrong with it is that a lot of the main actors, except for two or three, don’t really keep the viewer engaged with the film. The whipping boy is better than the other heroes trying to take the castle, and there are a few great moments from Olivia d’Abo as the villainess of the film, but I admittedly have a soft spot for her because of her past performances, and a bit of a crush that soften the blow. This doesn’t necessarily mean Sleeping Beauty is a bad film, just one that you can have on in the background while you do something else and won’t miss much.