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There’s been a new trend in Hollywood as of late, and while it is undoubtedly successful at the box office, the fairy tale live action genre is not producing many quality films. New remakes such as the recent Cinderella are filled with epic visuals and stunning cinematography, bringing new life aside to the classic stories that were often only seen on a page or in a children’s animated adaptation. And with better special effects and CGI (and arguably Hollywood running out of original ideas) it seems that the past decade has been prime time for brand new takes on classic folk lore.
The problem is that we’ve heard these stories before, and without a unique take, they become iterations of our beloved classics with just additional spectacle to claim it as new. There have been some great adaptations (Ever After, Stardust, Enchanted) but there have also been terrible ones. Here we explore those—the 10 worst fairy tale movies to hit the big screen. So you can beware of which Cinderella’s and Snow White’s should be avoided.
10. Mirror MirrorThe comedy fantasy Mirror, Mirror had a lot of hope with a star studded cast including Lily Collins as Snow White and Julia Roberts as Queen Clementianna, but the film fell short without a uniquely original storyline. The film was undoubtedly beautiful, an area most live action fairy tale films seem to succeed in. But it is very clearly missing something to make it one of the better fairy tale adaptations, and that something seems to be a lack of charm.
While the visuals most definitely will win over a young audience, the charm tends to be lost on adults. But, that’s not to say that the film is a complete failure either. It has some Shrek-like qualities to it, which give the film a light comedic feel that still brings about giggles at times. The script needed some sharper tuning, but overall, the basic adaptation of Snow White was not all terrible.
9. Sydney WhiteIt’s difficult for me to put this film on the list, because the misfit casting along with Amanda Bynes’ tomboy version of Snow White were truly endearing, but, the film won’t attract anything more than a tween audience wanting to see the gorgeous yet quirky girl get the attractive Prince on campus. In a story of good conquering evil, Sydney White finds her place within a group of socially awkward nerds who decide to take on the Queen Bee on their college campus in a student government election.
It has its funny moments, mostly due to the talented acting, but it definitely wasn’t Amanda Bynes best. And instead of a young adult film, it felt more like a Disney Channel movie set on a college campus. The story can be a little boring at times, crossing the line with cheese (I mean come on Tyler Prince falls for Sydney White pretty much at first glance) and entirely predictable, but it does share that nice high school movie message to embrace all different types of people.
8. MaleficentI went into this film hoping for the best. And maybe that was the problem. The trailers, the casting of Angelina Jolie as the titular role and the unique story about the past of a dark and twisted villain seemed an exciting prospect. But, it only proved to me not to trust a trailer, because the uninventive plot and somewhat disturbing events were barely saved by the majestic Jolie, and she rarely has to try that hard.
It was a commercial success, and it seems that while there were plenty of critics, the majority was indifferent. But that indifference upsets me because of all the potential this film had. There is no coherent tone, and instead of highlighting the qualities that make Maleficent such a foiled and passionate character, she becomes boring. The visuals were striking but they couldn’t mask the flat storytelling. And despite the efforts of Jolie and even Elle Fanning’s great performance, there was very little to get excited about in Maleficent.
7. Snow White And The HuntsmanAt first glance, it is the uneven acting that seemingly messes with any potential this movie could have, but in reality, it is the sloppy script that is probably the cause of all the other disappointing elements falling into place. Charlize Theron keeps the film entertaining in her portrayal of Ravenna, the evil queen, but it also seems like she is the only one actually enjoying herself (in a cast that also features Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth as protagonists).
The film set out with a unique and stunning take on the classic tale, including much darker origins as well as breathtaking, fantastical visuals. But, the storyline becomes so confusing and hard to follow that the hard work from the actors is completely lost. There is so much potential here though, which makes it bearable in that watching it you almost imagine what small directions could have made it work. But, overall, the stunning visuals can’t make up for the lack of character development and directionless plot.
6. Jack The Giant SlayerIn one word, I could describe Jack The Giant Slayer as underwhelming. Its fairly dull story matched with far too many digital effects made for a disappointment, that is if you were expecting anything at all. But, with a director attached like Bryan Singer, it could’ve been a hit or miss. Unfortunately this take on Jack, a young farmhand out to rescue a princess in distress is definitely a miss.
While there were an abundance of special effects, they weren’t able to carry the film, and with the crazy amount of money spent on them, the only effect that looked halfway decent was the beanstalk. Again, the script falls flat, straying very little from the original fairy tale but just enough to title it differently and to give it a PG-13 rating. The childish jokes mixed with adult language confuses which audience it is intended for. It was watchable, but not rewatchable.
5. Hansel and Gretel: Witch HuntersIn a continuation of the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale, this action-horror comedy take on what the dynamic duo would be like had they all grown up was met with a powerful box office opening weekend, but also met with negative critical review. It was fun to watch, but lacked anything of substance, coming off as more tedious than holding any actual comedy. Again, like the other action fantasy films in the newly developed fairy tale adaptations, the film did not disappoint in its stunning visuals, but the thin script brought the overall experience down.
What Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters tried to do differently than some of the others on this list, was to create somewhat of a parody, attempting to be unique with some silly jokes in the mix. But, the very minimal laughs paired with heavy violence wasn’t enough to keep the film afloat, and instead just creating for a bloody mess. The biggest disappointment though, lied in the fact that Will Ferrell was a producer, and what hoped to be a hilarious look into the future of the bad-ass brother/sister pair, ended up running out of any exciting momentum it started with.
4. The Brothers GrimmTalk about disappointment. How can you have Matt Damon and Heath Ledger as your main protagonists and still fall so incredibly short? Well The Brothers Grimm is a prime example. The film was mediocre at best, and failed to live up to its ambitious take on the brother con-artists. It also was highly anticipated as Terry Gilliam’s first film in years, only to completely bomb. The film was inconsistent yet overly repetitive as it seemed to get lost in the woods that the story took place in.
The film looked nice at some points, but it wasn’t enough to keep it from becoming increasingly boring as the story progresses. The one thing that it does achieve, is making me actually dislike Matt Damon and Heath Ledger. There were definite problems with the script, and it just overall lacked any substance to keep the viewer intrigued. It felt intentionally bad throughout most of it (but not in a funny way), and it definitely did not help with Gilliam’s directing career.
3. Red Riding HoodI’m still surprised I didn’t walk out of the theater when I saw this one. I came so close, a few times, but somehow managed to sit through the whole thing. It was a strange dark fantasy, mixed with historical elements and romance, very loosely based on the fairy tale but oh so painfully cliched. Amanda Seyfried did the best she could with a poorly written script, but there was no chemistry between her and her love interest played by Shiloh Fernandez.
It tried to do too much, and in turn achieved nothing. It was like Twilight without any of the passion, and a lot of staring, and a lot of awkward silence. It attempted to make a classic tale into a teenage-hormone driven romance and while the storyline was odd to begin with, nothing happened throughout the film to make it believable. It just seemed to remind us that Catherine Hardwicke, who once brought us Academy Award-nominated Thirteen is on a downward spiral with her direction.
2. BeastlyWith a cast including Vanessa Hudgens, Alex Pettyfer and Mary-Kate Olsen, there’s no one going into the movie with the highest of expectations. But even if you took a guess at how bad this movie could be, you wouldn’t even come close. Set in modern-day NYC, the film follows an arrogant and attractive rich boy who gets cursed and turns into a tattooed beast. Of course Vanessa Hudgens sees beyond his sci-fi-type tattoos and the two fall in love, only to have Alex Pettyfer return to his beautiful blond self. That’s it. I just told you the whole movie. And those three sentences are far less painful than the 86 minutes of film that extend the storyline.
The acting is horrendous, the story is so bland and boring. It was probably liked by young tween girls riding their high from High School Musical but I would think they'd even hope for more excitement at that age in a film. The love story at the center of the film doesn’t even run as a love story, and is just another sad rework to fit into the Twilight era. The one thing I did enjoy was watching a gothic Mary-Kate Olsen get her witch on. But even that was a bit over-the-top.
1. Pinocchio (2002)Arguably, the 2002 Italian live-action fantasy film wasn’t entirely awful before it was dubbed into English. The film was ranked as one of the worst reviewed films of the 2000s and on Rotten Tomatoes is received with a 0% approval rating. After winning an Oscar, Roberto Benigni’s career began to falter, and this was one of the worst performances of them all. Benigni’s portrayal of the middle-aged wooden-boy was incredibly creepy and only worstened when the young Breckin Meyer’s voice was dubbed for English.
It was uncomfortable to watch and unintentionally terrifying. The design and cinematography were gorgeous, but in casting Benigni to play the puppet-turned-boy it made it an entirely different movie, and did not feel child-friendly. Italians tend to love the film though, so maybe the subtitled version is worth a shot. But if you ever see the dubbed film, you’ll never, ever want to go back. And you’ll probably be haunted by a few nightmares to top it off.