As you all know (yes, all of you), once a week we put together a ridiculous list of the top 10 movies sharing a common theme or motif. This week, we’re mixing it up because we couldn’t find 10 live-action fairy tale movies that we could in good conscience call “good.”
Instead, in preparation for Jack the Giant Slayer, we’ve decided to take a look at some of the more memorable films from this category. There have been some seriously bad flicks that meet this criteria, as well as some pretty decent ones. Really, though we’re a little dumbfounded about just how desperate Hollywood has gotten for new material (although these stories aren’t exactly new). While we consider their pillage of stories residing soundly in the public domain a little unnerving, it’s better than another stupid board game movie. [Editor's note: Bring on a Settlers of Catan movie to change our minds.]
So, before you rush out to watch a boy murder giants this weekend, we thought it important to give you a little perspective into the rapidly expanding fairy tale genre. For your consideration, we present, in no particular order, 10 live-action fairy tale movies worth mentioning.
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters: We’re going to ease into things by starting off with the most recent fairy tale characters to get a chance at theaters. While Hansel and Gretel are no stranger to the silver screen, there story has never been told with such, well, let’s just call it gusto. Honestly, this movie is so awful it’s awesome, with breakneck pacing and a script that seemed to say, “to hell with character development!” It’s a good thing Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton and some very pretty production design were there to save it. The gratuitous use of 3D didn’t hurt, either. True, the fairy tale itself only served as an introduction to the movie, but the fact is that this built off of that mythos to create a world for the characters to inhabit.
Ever After: A Cinderella Story- There are a lot of things I’ll never fully understand. For instance, how can a man fall in love with a woman and then have to resort to trying her shoes on all the maidens in the land to remember what she looked like? Or why do people think Drew Barrymore is so attractive? Ever After attempts to answer both of these questions as it tackles a more grounded version of the Cinderella story (Leonardo Da Vinci serves as her fairy godmother). In this version, though, Cinderella is hardly what one would call a dainty maiden. No, instead she a rough-and-tumble, full-blown woman who don’t take no crap from no one… Except for Anjelica Huston. With her coming to the prince’s rescue in one particular scene, it’s no wonder they cast the future Whip It star.
Hook- Like Hansel & Gretel, this one takes place in a fairy tale universe years after the fact as the insufferable Robin Williams plays Peter Pan all grown-up. This is a staple from the early years of my childhood, and to this day I still shout “Rufio” whenever I see Dante Basco (mainly to make public appearances as awkward as possible). [Editor's note: He does this in nearly every social situation, not just when Basco is around.] The film showed a unique vision of Neverland, as Steven Spielberg created a land that wasn’t so much about children never growing up as it was a place where lost dreams went to die (which makes the film only that much more depressing). Speaking of depressing, did anyone else find Thudd Butt reminiscent of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man? I’m not trying to be mean, it’s just he was so… Let’s say “jolly,” and he wore a sailor’s suit. O.K., maybe I am being a little mean.
Tideland- I consider Terry Gilliam one of the most underappreciated directors in film today. While he’s met with critical success on a number of his past projects, he always comes up short at the box office. Tideland is the first entry in our list that could be considered controversial, though to me it represents a modern American fairy tale. There’s very little mysticism in it, but there still something dark and very, shall we say, Grimm about it. Texas seems to be the perfect setting for such a film, and this one showcases Jeff Bridges and Jennifer Tilly as awful (…wicked?) parents. But then again, it was probably the easiest acting gig of Bridges’ career. If you haven’t seen this one, don’t knock it, but be warned that it’s about as creepy as they come.
Red Riding Hood- Ah yes, now we come to the not so great fairy tale movies in our list. While it’s a stretch, this take on the classic tale does, in fact, feature a literal big bad wolf as the antagonist (unlike the Kiefer Sutherland vehicle, Freeway) and even has a woodcutter to boot. However, it’s… Well, it’s just awful. Though we didn’t mind seeing Amanda Seyfried sporting the red hood, a pretty face and a chic over-garment don’t make up for the fact that this movie just isn’t up to par. This is a trend we’ve seen a lot with in recent fairy tale movies; Red Riding Hood just brought it once again to the forefront of our attention. It might not be a crown jewel, but it certainly is something to consider when looking at the genre as a whole.
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