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Sunday, October 8, 2017

Faerie Tale Theatre: Sleeping Beauty

No, I haven't forgotten about Faerie Tale Theatre, it's just that my free time has been whittled down to practically nothing. Next on the programme is the show's take on Sleeping Beauty, which puts a spin on the usual proceedings by relocating the story to Western Europe (allowing for some crazy accents) and throwing in some subplots involving undesirable suitors along the way.
It's also the most racy of the episodes (so far) with several jokes that are bound to go WAY over the heads of younger viewers.
This is not taken out of context. What you think is happening is happening.

But what makes this one really different is that for the first time it embraces the definition of "faerie tale theatre". Not only does it take place on a soundstage with fake plywood trees, but our narrator is a woodsman who talks directly to the audience as well as to the prince and his squire (which serves as a framing device for the whole thing).  

In this version the prince and his squire have switched clothes and identities in order to travel incognito, and eventually come to the enchanted castle where the aforementioned woodsman fills them in on the princess and her history. In great detail – as in, we get to see the lead-up to her conception (that's what happens when you've got to stretch a five minute story into an hour).

The new setting allows for a great new design for the fairies, who all appear as multi-coloured spirits with auto-tuned voices. And naturally the single male is Camp Gay. As per usual, the evil fairy (here called Henbane) arrives in a tizz that she wasn't invited and uses Troll Logic to curse the princess with a sleeping spell on her sixteenth birthday – arguing that love and life aren't worth the hassle.
The last good fairy tries to alleviate the spell, but rather idiotically announces the whole thing in front of Henbane, who will now spend the rest of the episode attempting to thwart her.
At this point the episode switches to the prince's point-of-view as he tells the woodsman his side of the story: having had a dream about a beautiful princess, he set off to some Arabia-inspired country where he meets the actress playing the original queen and Bernadette Peters (who also plays the sleeping beauty) is eligible Princess Deborah, who is actually the evil fairy in disguise.
The doubling-up of actors continues when we switch back to the princess's side of the tale, in which Christopher Reeves arrives as a Romantic False Lead, the plan being to ship the princess off to a neighbouring kingdom to spare her from the curse. (According to the paperwork, the curse extends only to the boundaries of the kingdom).
After some interminable Padding in which the episode kills some time by capitalizing on Bernadette Peter's voice by having her sing a little song for no real reason, the princess runs away from the odious prince and naturally stumbles across the evil fairy spinning in a small turret room.
In any Sleeping Beauty story, the thorns that surround the castle will either be protective measures derived from the good fairy or a dangerous obstacle designed by the bad fairy. In this version it's the latter, who also throws in a bad acid trip.

But the prince makes it to the princess's chamber, and it's at this point I have to refer to my previous post on how to pull off Love at First Sight. This is hardly a love story for the ages, but this episode did check one of my prerequisites: to ensure that the characters are similar in nature, to better convince the audience that they're made for each other. In this case, one of the running gags of the episode is the prince and princess's altruism, something that's met with bewilderment by almost everyone else.
The trope can be a hard sell, but if the audience knows each character separately, it's easier to believe they'll be happy together. Even if what they have in common is just a shared obsession with helping the poor.
Largest Shoulder Pads: 
Biggest Axe that Also Doubles as Penis Metaphor (Seriously):

Most Surprising Guest Star: Hey, it's Christopher Reeves and Bernadette Peters! And Rene Auberjonois again! (Geez, what did Shelley Duvall have on this guy?)
Worst Backdrop: The enchanted castle:
Weirdest Moment: Most Sleeping Beauty stories have the birth of the princess preordained by fairies or a talking frog or some other magical creature. I've seen at least one version that has an elf prepare a potion for the queen to help her conceive. But this goes one better by depicting the queen open a random box at the end of her bed to reveal a tiny woman who clues her in on what she has to do to get pregnant.
As in, she gives her a sex-education class right there in her bedroom – albeit in an inaudible whisper. The queen then clues in her husband and they start giggling as they pull the covers over their head.
Which is as good a segue as any to...
Most Adult Joke: This is a category that's appeared in all my reviews so far, but yikes! Sleeping Beauty takes it to a whole new level. There's the Bait and Switch gag about how the king seemingly wants sex ("do hurry my dearest, the king is waiting!") but is actually just waiting for his bedtime story, followed by the disguised evil fairy attempting a full-on seduction of Christopher Reeves's prince by telling him to pull pearls off her outfit with his teeth, and concluding with the woodsman fondling his axe and imagining breasts as the prince finishes his story.
Most Well-Meaning Bout of Feminism that Doesn't Actually Amount to Much: One of the fairies bestows bravery on the infant princess, much to the confusion of her father who doesn't think a princess would ever need such a thing. And he's right considering the gift is never utilized in any part of the story that follows. 
Best Reaction Shot: The triple recoil.
Weirdest Joke: Why is the last fairy not at the table when Henbane casts her curse? Usually the story just posits she's late, but this one has her asking directions to the toilet. Hey, it's certainly an original twist.
Most Eighties Hair: 
Best Random Moment: When you're an extra given the task of tossing a salad, you're gonna make damn sure you're remembered for it.
Funniest Gag: When the prince wakes up the princess with a kiss, and the two of them realize her parents are watching.



  1. I like to think Rene Auberjonois just really loves fairy tales and is always happy to show up - he also voices an animated skull for about a minute in The Last Unicorn.

    1. That's probably true, though I also like the possibility that Shelley Duval kidnapped everyone's dog and held them hostage till actors of this calibre agreed to her fairy tale show.