Although Mel Brooks once opined that “it’s good to be the King,” The Young Victoria shows that it’s not quite such a bed of roses being the Queen. At least, it wasn’t great in the early years for Queen Victoria who, as everyone remembers, was the namesake for the repressive morals of the Victorian Age. She was young once, though, and apparently in love, and if you throw in some amazing costumes, sets, and hot young stars, you got yourself a movie, and not a half bad one.
7 / 10 stars
Rating: movie reviewed rating
Although Mel Brooks once opined that “it’s good to be the King,” The Young Victoria shows that it’s not quite such a bed of roses being the Queen. At least, it wasn’t great in the early years for Queen Victoria who, as everyone remembers, was the namesake for the repressive morals of the Victorian Age. She was young once, though, and apparently in love, and if you throw in some amazing costumes, sets, and hot young stars, you got yourself a movie, and not a half bad one.

Emily Blunt is the titular young Victoria, who is not yet 18 and being groomed to take over the throne from her aging uncle, King William (Jim Broadbent). “Being groomed” consists of her mother (Miranda Richardson) and her mother’s advisor (Mark Strong) -- and lover -- trying to keep her weak and reliant on them while pressuring her to give up her powers and make her mother Regent until she turns 25. They aren’t the only ones trying to get a piece of the future Queen. The Prime Minister (Paul Bettany), the opposition leader (Michael Maloney), and even Victoria’s uncle, King Leopold of Belgium (Thomas Kretschmann), are all working at increasing their influence and control over the young woman who isn’t even allowed to walk down the stairs without holding someone’s hand.

King Leopold’s influence is in the form of his nephew, Albert (Rupert Friend), who is sent over specifically to get into Victoria’s bed and thus strengthen the link between the shaky Belgium with the much stronger England. Surprise, surprise, though, the two crazy kids actually fall in love, and when Victoria does take the throne at age 18, they get married. Victoria, totally unprepared to be Queen thanks to the efforts of all the people trying to control her, makes early blunders that turn public opinion against her. Albert, on the other hand, tries to figure out how to be something more than Belgian window dressing.

The script by Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park) tries to be two satisfying but very different types of movie, and ends up with one mostly satisfying but weakened hybrid. There is the period romance that totally kicks ass. Beautiful costumes and sets (it won an Oscar for Costumes and was nominated for Production Design), wonderful accents, good-looking leads, dreamy music, and, most of all, a time in English history when things were just more…proper. It all works great, and even if Blunt and Friend look significantly less like the actual couple than I do, they do humanize them by taking the starch and stiffness away from their public-portrait personas that many of us know. At least, I think it humanizes them; I don’t know much about the young Victoria, so who knows if she was as mischievous and passionate as Blunt portrays her.

The second part of the script doesn't work as well. It’s the historical documentary about English and European politics, rife with general trivia about Victoria’s reign that is necessary to get the gist of Victoria and Albert’s relationship, but still feels out of place. Lots of voiceovers and explanations help fill us in on who is who and what they think and what they want from Victoria. It would be tough to do the movie without some historical context, but this material does weigh down the romance somewhat.

Still, romance fans will love the hell out of this thing. My wife has watched the movie at least three times. It is so far up their alley it’s like it was built by the infallible RomanceMovie3000 machine. It this is your cup of tea, you’ll enjoy the pot. Everyone else will find it less stuffy than it seems like it should be, but nothing special in terms of an overall movie experience.
6 / 10 stars
Rating: movie reviewed rating
I’m going to have to defer to my wife’s comment on The Young Victoria Blu-ray when she noted that the extras “look like they were put together by an 80-year-old woman.” I’m actually not sure what that means, but if it means that an 80-year-old woman would put together weak extras that sometimes don’t even relate much to their supposed subject…she’s right.

The featurettes all start and end with a brief scene from the movie, then consist primarily of interviews shot on set with cast members (although almost never Blunt or Friend) or a crew member. The “Making of The Young Victoria” has very little “making-of” information and is mostly the producers and Jim Broadbent saying things like “being a Queen at that age was hard, and we wanted to be sure to show how she lived.” It’s only about five minutes long and is about the worst one of these you could imagine. “The Real Queen Victoria” is laughable, as it just has actors in the movie talking about her character and readings of her diary. It’s unclear why they didn’t get a historian to say “Okay, here’s what Victoria’s reign was like and what she did and didn’t do.” That might have added some depth to what we see in the movie.

The best featurette in a “what the hell” kind of way is the “Lavish History” look at costumes and locations. There is about two minutes on the costumes (which, again, won a frickin’ Academy Award and would be of great interest to the type of people who watch this movie) and another minute or so on the production design. The remainder of the seven-minute featurette is spent discussing the meaning behind one scene. The discussion doesn’t have anything to do with costumes or locations, but rather about the film trick used to show Victoria gliding across the floor and why the director chose that technique. It’s just weird. There is about a three-minute extra on “The Coronation,” but it mostly deals with the coronation scene in the movie rather than information on actual coronations or even Queen Victoria’s real coronation.

Other than that, there is a generous 17 minutes of deleted and extended scenes. The scenes definitely fill in some background on minor characters and historical color that should be interesting to some. Also, more costumes! There isn’t a commentary (hello, why?), but there is something called MovieIQ. It’s only available if your Blu-ray is hooked up to the Internet. I’m sure yours is, but mine isn’t, so I don’t know much about this feature. Based on the little ad for it on the disc, it’s like having IMDb available as you watch the movie, which sounds less than thrilling.

The picture and sound quality are top flight, and that’s a big deal here. This is a visual movie in the same way any sci-fi epic is. Chicks want to see their costumes and details and hear those accents in quiet conversations in giant rooms. Everything looks and sounds great and sharp. If the extras were better or more interesting, this would actually be a top-notch Blu-ray for a romance fan, but as it is, it’s just ok.

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