REVIEW: ‘Gretel & Hansel’ burned by poor story, character execution

It’s so disappointing when a movie is close to winning you over and doesn’t.

The most recent example is “Gretel & Hansel.”

The film is inspired by the classic dark fairy tale, although this one takes liberties. As the story goes, the two young protagonists Gretel (Sophia Lillis) and Hansel (Samuel Leakey) are forced to venture out into the woods on their own and fend for themselves.

As one would expect, they stumble upon a welcoming structure with plenty of food and a kind woman (Alice Krige) willing to share. However, there’s of course something more nefarious going on.

There’s a lot of style in this film from Director Oz Perkins, but not much substance. The whole film feels under-cooked, especially in a second act where not much really happens.

The source material is a rather simple story, and fortunately some original concepts are introduced here. But despite having new ideas, such as Gretel having potential with magic, the picture doesn’t push the boundaries of what it was inspired by.

What really undercuts this movie is how one of the two protagonists was written. The movie is very much Gretel-centric, which is perfectly fine, but it ultimately does disservice to the Hansel character.

Courtesy Orion Pictures and United Artists Releasing.

Hansel was made way too young in this movie, and written to be far too annoying. The character does basically nothing but complain the whole time. While it’s understandable that the creative team wanted Gretel to see Hansel as somewhat of a burden to take care of, it doesn’t help that the two don’t really relate to each other.

Hansel could have been about the same age, and been more on the same page about what’s going on, while still maybe being an annoyance at times. Something more akin to the siblings in the 2015 movie “The Visit” would have really helped here.

Also not helping out the picture is its ending. There are some good climactic moments, but the way the movie finishes didn’t really make sense and left a lot to be desired.

It’s such a shame, too, because visually and audibly, this feature has a lot going for it. The house it takes place in looks unique, mysterious and haunting. The woods have a creepy atmosphere. The camera work from director of photography Galo Olivares is really good, with some some memorable shots.

There’s artistry here, from freaky visual cues, to the inclusion of really good music. Also working for it are the main performances from Lillis and Krige. Both are quite solid here, with the latter especially putting a lot into the role.

So much of what’s good in “Gretel & Hansel” is cancelled out by its execution. It’s an unfortunate situation where the film had a clear artistic identity, but at the end it doesn’t come together. This one comes to a 2 out of 5. Honestly, I’d rather watch the 2013 “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” movie again over this one.


Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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