Most of us grew up being deeply influenced by German fairytales, especially those compiled by the Brothers Grimm, like “Cinderella,” “Rumplestiltskin” and “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.”
Whether our parents read us these stories as we fell asleep or we watched the various film adaptations of them, they were undeniably a part of our childhoods.
Of these stories, most are familiar with the tale of “Hansel and Gretel.”
It is a simple story, and one that highlights the dangers of the unknown, as well as the importance of a well-developed wit.
Many fairytales have now received a revisionist version in film and television like “Snow White and the Huntsman” or “Once Upon a Time.” It was only a matter of time until the story of Hansel and Gretel received a similar treatment.
In this form of the fable, writer Rob Hayes and director Osgood Perkins decided to make their version focused upon the strong, independent Gretel and her interactions with the witch of the woods.
The witch of the woods (Alice Krige), after luring the lost and delirious duo into her house, attempts to seduce Gretel (Sophia Lillis) into becoming a witch, just like her, and embracing her innate power. All that holds Gretel back from this enticement is the ominous aura surrounding the witch and her attachment to Hansel.
When the witch’s plans are made obvious, it is down to Gretel to decide the fate of the siblings.
Hayes’ and Perkins’ adaptation of this classical story lacks compelling characters, an investing plot, decent pacing and anything remotely resembling subtlety or intricacy regarding its message.
Hayes’ writing for the story is disjointed and sluggish, leading most audiences to check out of the experience halfway through its remarkably short, 87-minute runtime. His perspective for the narrative insists that the audience sees everything through Gretel’s point of view, but he proceeds to write Gretel as a character who is remarkably unremarkable in any way.
In this telling, Hansel’s character becomes little more than a ball and chain for Gretel, who begrudgingly cares for him throughout the film.
We receive almost no background for either Gretel or Hansel. The most characterization they ever receive is their reactions to certain things in the forest or the actions of the witch.
Choosing to waste exposition on the “girl in the pink hat” rather than Gretel leaves her character feeling hollow. The movie asks you to believe Gretel is “special” simply because people in the film keep on saying that she is, without ever proving it.
The most interesting parts of the film, which are certainly the interactions between Gretel and the witch, are always too few and far between to invest audience members in the film’s obvious climax.
Despite the poor narrative that went into making this film, there are a few aspects of it which showed some promise.
Cinematographer Galo Olivares and Perkins craft beautiful shots and sequences, but nothing beyond what some talent, a decent camera and a pretty backyard can produce. The set design for the film is similarly simple but attractive. If you’re the type of person who would pay $10 to see 87 minutes of pretty establishing and tracking shots, you might be one of the two people who would go see this film and genuinely enjoy it.
Additionally, Krige and Lillis both do great jobs with what little they are given and provide the only twinge of suspense to be found in this film.
For the rest of us, however, pretty pictures and a few moments of intrigue are not enough to compensate for a bare-bones story that repeatedly tries to hit you over the head with its “wokeness,” and never even follows through.
This film is a missed opportunity for filmmakers to craft a new take on a classic tale, but is instead a cheap retread of far superior films like “The Witch.”
Don’t waste your time with this one. “Gretel and Hansel,” just like the witch of the woods, possesses some pretty trappings, but is ultimately revealed to have a withered and rotting core.