Gretel & Hansel review
Once upon a time, in the kingdom of storytelling, lie the original auteurs of fairy tales, the Brothers Grimm. Their known for their classical tales such as "The Golden Goose", "The Elves and the Shoemaker", "Snow White", and of course, the subject of today's movie, "Hansel and Gretel". All of these stories have been retold as family friendly and cute several times, which is probably why they stick with us. What also stick with them is how dark a lot of them are. It's obvious that their all meant to be cautionary stories to teach us about the harsh realities of the world.
Looking at "Hansel and Gretel", we have the classic story of two children that come across a house of sweets, get lured in by a witch that lives there, and defeat her using their cleaver wit. This is a famous analogy on trusting random strangers, especially the ones that offer candy to go to them. It's also a great lesson in how images can be deceiving. But unlike "Snow White" or "Sleeping Beauty", this story has not had a lot of adaptations, not even an animated movie from Disney. Now we have a gothic retelling with Gretel & Hansel.
Teenager Gretel (played by Sophia Lillis) is struggling with her position in the old world as a person whose only told she's good for subservient work. After she fails at acquiring a job, her stepmother accuses her of not paying her fair share and forces her and her brother Hansel (played by Sam Leakey) out. Gretel remains optimistic that she and her brother will find something and even manage to spend a night at a kind hunter's home. They wonder around the woods, becoming more hungry as time goes by.
They eventually come across a home in the woods, that also has a lot of food on the table. They find an old woman who lives there, Holda (played by Alice Kringe) who offers food and shelter. They eat and gorge as Hansel is swayed by the promise that he'll be trained as a woodsmen. Gretel knows something is off with the place, but Holda also promises her to teach her ways of magic. Gretel also remembers about an old story her father told her about a young girl whose psychic abilities pushed her into the same woods. Could this old woman have a connection with it?
Like a lot of January releases, Gretel & Hansel has a lot of problems that prevent it from being effective. A lot of it is on Gretel. I know the actress Sophia Lillis can give a good performance (as she did in the It movies), but along with keeping her American accent (which is awkward as everyone else has an English accent), she seems to be directed in a way that comes off more wooden then it should be. I appreciate the movie trying to give her more character, but it's going to fail if the acting doesn’t come off that natural.
Plus when it comes to the retelling of the story, it's trying to do a lot. When it's telling the fairy tale, it is effective. When it's trying to be a female empowerment story, it feels really forced. I don't have anything against that, but it needs to be done in a story that portrays that positively. Gretel & Hansel sends a mixed message where the witch and her powers are bad, yet Gretel (along with the movie) wants to take part in it…to be her own woman? I don’t get what message it's trying to send, but it's clear the movie isn't smart enough to find that balance.
It's a shame because the movie does have a lot of good things. The movie's production and cinematography is really good. It's fog filled forests and candlelit caves and homes give you a good sense of gothic and creep. Its something I myself would be terrified to enter on my own and would make a good maze for those Halloween haunts. The music, which has a synth sound, does add on to Gretel & Hansel's tone. I thought it would be out of place, but something about it does make it even scarier then it really is. Perhaps this movie is the equivalent of "looks can be deceiving".
I'll give this two and a half candy houses out of five. Is this worth a watch? I don't know if I can say so in theaters. But I can see people enjoying this around the Halloween timeframe. I don't think this was for me as I still see it as too boring to care about. I may pick up the soundtrack. That'll be one thing I pick up from this candy house.