With a title like HANSEL & GRETEL GET BAKED, what would you expect? Based solely on the title alone – itself clearly a play on words (methinks) about how in the original fable Hansel and Gretel nearly find themselves in an oven – I’m thinking … comedy? No? Something certainly with drug undertones? No? Or maybe all director Duane Journey and screenwriter David Tillman intended was to delivered a contemporary twist on a parable as old as dirt. Whatever the case, you’re likely to find yourself scratching your head as much as I did trying to figure it out when you give this a spin as their intent remains elusive.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then this is not it! Instead, I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Gretel Jaeger (played by the comely Molly Quinn) loves Ashton (Andrew James Allen). It’s a perfect young love. As our story opens, we find them sharing a joint in Gretel’s bedroom; it’s a lovely bit of a new, intense marijuana strain called “Black Forest.” Once they run out, Gretel sends Ashton out into the world – erm, well, the streets – for some more. When her stoner boyfriend never returns, Gretel takes it on her own to investigate, much to the chagrin of her older brother, Hansel (Michael Welch). But before it’s all over, they’ll have to join forces to take down one sweet little ol’ lady, Agnes (Lara Flynn Boyle), who’s intent on sucking the life force out of both of them!
No doubt, you already know the story of Hansel and Gretel. What the participants here apparently intended to do – as best as I can surmise – is re-tell it with a contemporary, urban slant. Instead of Germany, you have the L.A. suburbs. Instead of a witch, you have a seductive old temptress. Instead of a gingerbread house in the forest, you have a posh two-story dwelling in a cul de sac. You get the idea. The problem is … is that enough?
Certain, one would think that even a modestly cautionary attempt to ‘update’ a classic tale would involve some measure of modern message, as well, but, for all its efforts, GET BAKED ends up being nothing more than … well … a modestly cautionary attempt to ‘update’ a classic tale. It’s plenty stylish and all, just as it’s given the proper urban sensibilities. The problem is there’s a heavy strain of humor injected unevenly into the production, starting with the title, then the opening sequence, and then perhaps one of the cleverest opening credits I’ve seen in some time. I’d be hard-pressed to deny that there’s an honest attempt at humor here; it just disappears and re-appears with no appreciable frequency that I’m really not convinced it was intended.
I have no problem with the modern spin on old stories. In fact, I think it can be a mighty nice way to revisit some of those messages we’re all given as kids – don’t take candy from strangers, don’t go out exploring in the forest all by yourself, don’t succumb to witches – and I can appreciate any writer’s attempt to liven up the source material with more than a few chuckles here and there. Still, BAKED feels half-cooked, and methinks the script could’ve used a few more minutes in the oven before putting it up there on the silver screen.
HANSEL & GRETEL GET BAKED is produced by Kerry Kimmel & Pollack, Dark Highway Films (II), and Uptik Entertainment. DVD distribution is being handled by New Video under its Tribeca Film imprint. As for the technical specifications, it looks and sounds about as well as any major motion picture does these days; there’s some nice cinematography, and it’s all given a wondrously stylish look, even in its darkest corners. Sadly, there are no special features to speak of; I would’ve liked to have known in the very least whether the creative folks intended this as a serious horror film or a horror parody because, for the life of me, I couldn’t say for sure.
RECOMMENDED. HANSEL & GRETEL GET BAKED is a mixed bag of effective and ineffective bits, mostly thrown into chaos by no single guiding theme: is this meant to serve as parody or satire of the classic fable OR did they intend this to be a legitimate horror film? It’s far too tame to be a legitimate horror film, and it’s far too unfunny to feel like an honest attempt at parody or satire. Instead, you get maybe what you expected – a modern day fractured fairy tale for the medicinally light-headed or an audience better known as ‘Judd Apatow’s desired demographic,’ but this is far short of the lunacy they’ve come to expect. Also, David Tillman’s sometimes tired screenplay borrows liberally from other fairy tales and even mythology to the point where methinks not even he was entirely certain what it was all going to look like in the end.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at New Video provided me with an advance DVD copy of HANSEL & GRETEL GET BAKED by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.