This is the second of three (hopefully) Hansel and Gretel films that I’ll be reviewing for this site. We’ve already had the Asylum version of things, where nothing makes a lick of sense, and we’ve got Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton’s version to come. But this…well, it’s about marijuana! Films about potheads are never not funny, right?
Gretel, played by the daughter from TV show “Castle”, is a bit of a pothead, although an extremely clean-cut one. Her boyfriend Anton brings round some amazing new weed, called Black Forest, and they like it so much they get the grower’s address from their dealer. Turns out it’s a little old lady! Well, as anyone who’s read the fairytale knows (and if you haven’t, then I am deeply sorry for your childhood) the little old lady is not all she’s made out to be. The spin on this tale is that the woman is an ancient witch, and sucks the life force out of people to remain forever young, then turns those lifeforce-donators into zombies which she uses to guard her maze of enormous weed plants.
Hansel appears to not smoke weed, but he doesn’t mind his sister doing it…he’s a bland everyman sort of character, I guess. This really isn’t me being a bad reviewer, they didn’t give him much in the way of defining characteristics. He helps his sister, though, when Anton goes missing on his buying mission at the witch’s house. Circling round the outskirts of this story are Anton’s dealer and his girlfriend; the Hispanic heavies that the dealer has previously been doing business with before buying Black Forest; a guy from the power company looking for his missing co-worker (the witch’s first onscreen victim, played by Cary Elwes, who the film could clearly only afford to pay for a day of work); and a couple of cops.
You know how this goes. Gingerbread houses, breadcrumb trails, deaths, and so on. My wife noticed that Gretel seemed to favour medieval-esque clothing, which is a weird nod to the story’s origins that doesn’t really fit with the film…but as to the quality of the film itself, it gets a big thumbs down. Firstly is the gulf between what the film is marketed as, and what it actually was. A film called “Hansel and Gretel Get Baked”, about the witch growing excellent weed, is an idea for comedy, and this just isn’t funny. It’s so bad, in fact, that I can’t tell if it’s a straight horror film that they decided to market as a comedy, or if it’s just a comedy with no jokes. Note to filmmakers – marijuana isn’t that funny a thing, purely on its own. Also, with California (where this film is presumably set, given the opening credits) allowing medical marijuana, I’m a bit surprised that the kids have to buy their product from a sleazy street-corner dealer, and that the police give a damn about someone growing it.
Lara Flynn Boyle, initially under layers of makeup, plays the witch. Now, I appreciate there must be a hell of a pressure on older actresses to maintain their youthful appearance, so I’m not going to criticise. But she’s had an allergic reaction to botox and her lips are enormous, so even when she’s out of makeup as her younger self, she looks odd, and wildly overacts for no real reason too (it’s certainly not to generate laughs). She’s been good in the past, and can do comedy and drama, so this is just sad.
I believe I made a similar criticism of the other Hansel and Gretel film, but if you’re killing as many people as Lara is killing to maintain her youthful appearance, then people are going to start to notice, and the fact that the police seemingly don’t give a damn about wealthy middle-class kids disappearing is somewhat baffling. In fact, the whole story of Hansel and Gretel is, like a thousand other stories (a lot of Shakespeare’s stuff, the work of the Bronte sisters, Dickens, among so many others), really difficult to adapt wholesale for a modern re-telling. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” relies on a father being able to marry his daughter to whoever he likes; Jane Eyre would have had other chances in her life; and Oliver Twist would hopefully have been caught by the welfare state.
What I’m getting at is, those stories need to have tweaks made in order to have modern re-tellings of them, as does Hansel and Gretel. They got some of it right – the black forest, the maze, but the central bit of the story is just left, like they realise it’s too big to fix and just can’t be bothered, or hope people will go “it’s magic! Why do you worry about this stuff?” I worry, I suppose, because it’s lazy and there’s no need for it. Clearly, time and money was spent making this film – it looks a million times better than the Asylum version and has a fair few names in it that film and TV fans will recognise – but the writing got to the stage of thinking of a clever title and went “our work here is done!”
There’s also some link to the Tribeca Film Festival with this film, the festival started by Robert DeNiro which has some arthouse remit. Lord knows how it and this came together.
So, Hansel and Gretel films are batting 0-for-2 with the ISCFC so far. This film was bad, poorly written and boring, and should be avoided unless you’re…actually, whatever weird thing you have, avoid this film. The brain cells you don’t expend on this film will thank you.