The ambitious Italian director Matteo Garrone (Gomorrah, Reality) makes his English-language debut, directing an international cast that includes Salma Hayek, Toby Jones, Vincent Cassel, and John C. Reilly. Yet the material is deeply rooted in Garrone's native land: drawn from Tale of Tales, a 17th-century fairy tale collection by Neapolitan poet Giambattista Basile, the movie poaches on Guillermo del Toro territory with its alternately comic and gruesome treatment of three supernatural stories. Hayek plays a barren queen who gets pregnant by eating the cooked heart of a sea monster, and Cassel is a randy king whose lovely new queen is really an old hag magically transformed; best of all is Jones as a king who adopts a flea as a pet and raises it into a pale, clammy-looking beast (which he cooingly addresses as “Scootchy”). A scene of a trained bear entertaining the court with its horn-playing and hula-hoop prowess is typical of the movie's freakish delights.
By J.R. Jones