[caption id="attachment_130509" align="alignleft" width="220"] Warner Bros.[/caption]
This week sees the release of Bryan Singer's "Jack the Giant Slayer," which has survived a long delay, conversion to 3-D, and a retitling (Jack was originally a "Giant Killer"), but now must face its biggest trial by fire: The Audience.
The rather old-fashioned children's adventure feel of "Jack" is going to feel rather old-hat in comparison to the flurry of fairy tale films that film-goers have been bludgeoned with in recent years, mostly because it doesn't offer much of an ironic or modernized spin on the fable.
Maybe that's a good thing?
Let's take a look back at some past films that really took our childhood favorites in edgier, sexier directions.
'Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters' (2013)
What They Changed: Well, it's not so much what they changed but what they extrapolated on. After the title brother and sister have their famous encounter at the gingerbread house, they go on to become somewhat traumatized (and diabetic) survivors hellbent on kicking some witch ass.
Did It Work? Naw. Tommy Wirkola may have turned zombie mythology on its head with "Dead Snow," but most of the comedy here falls flat, while the action involving anachronistic guns and other weaponry feels like a Saturday Night Live Digital Short stretched to 90 minutes. Who's the producer? Former "SNL" alumni Will Ferrell and Adam McKay.
'Snow White and the Huntsman' (2012)
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What They Changed: Another Grimm fairy tale heroine is transformed into an ass-kicker for the benefit of a movie-going public who need everything reimagined until it looks like a dark, Playstation version "Lord of the Rings."
Did It Work? Meh. Our favorite trampire Kristen Stewart gives her usual half-hearted performance in service of commercial helmer Rupert Sanders' CGI-enhanced soullessness. Only The Mighty Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth, comes out looking alright, while a whole cadre of the UK's finest thesps (Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Toby Jones, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost) are forced to degrade themselves for a hefty paycheck. Eye-roll.
'Red Riding Hood' (2011)
What They Changed: The tale of Little Red Riding Hood gets a reworking into yet another supernatural revamp of Agatha Christie's "Ten Little Indians." Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) is the doe-eyed bait for a werewolf running rampant in a medieval village after years of truce. Which of the townspeople could it be?
Did It Work? Not really. Perhaps feeling burned by not getting another shot at the "Twilight" franchise she herself christened, director Catherine Hardwicke upped the visual quotient without really improving on the acting department, despite having vets like Gary Oldman and Julie Christie right there… right there!
'The Princess and the Frog' (2009)
What They Changed: The first story in the Grimm pantheon, "The Frog Prince," gets a 20th century upgrade in this 2-D animated delight that finally gives us the first bonafide African American Disney princess.
Did It Work? Yes! The spoiled princess is now a waitress in 1920s New Orleans, and by tapping into the age-old fable of a prince turned into a frog the writers cleverly twist it by having the woman who kisses him herself turn into a frog. Some rousing musical numbers by Disney stalwart Randy Newman keep things spicy down on the bayou.
'The Brothers Grimm' (2005)
What They Changed: Far from a proper biopic, Terry Gilliam's fantasy mashup posits 18th century folkloric scholars Wilhelm and Jakob Grimm as silly con men "Will" and "Jake" (Matt Damon and Heath Ledger), going from town to town cooking up fake exorcisms to bilk yokels out of their loot… until they meet a real witch. The inspiration for "Cinderella," "Hansel and Gretel," "The Princess and the Pea," and more are casually thrown into the adventure mix.
Did It Work? Mostly. This was an immensely troubled production (chronicled in Bob McCabe's fascinating book "Dreams and Nightmares") and it shows, with Gilliam frequently on autopilot. However, the film does contain some of his best sequences, whether it's a truly nightmarish gingerbread man eating his own hand or a cat being accidentally splattered by a Rube Goldberg torture device.
'Sleepy Hollow' (1999)
What They Changed: Washington Irving's classic American fairy tale of supremely superstitious schoolteacher Ichabod Crane is transformed into an episode of "CSI: 19th Century New York." Crane, as played by a pale-faced Johnny Depp, is now a dashing police constable and man of science, investigating a series of gruesome beheadings in Sleepy Hollow that turn out to be a Hessian Horseman risen from the grave!
Did It Work? You bet! Director Tim Burton's revisionist fairy tale is part Italian horror film, part gothic romance, with a ripping mystery at the center. Christopher Walken's scenes showing off his pearly white chiseled down to sharp fangs are the stuff of resplendent night terrors.
'Ever After: A Cinderella Story' (1998)
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What They Changed: All the bippity boppity boo magic is stripped away in favor of a more grounded, realistic story set in Renaissance-era France in a semi-serious farce that's more Shakespeare than Disney.
Did It Work? Errr, kinda. Barrymore proves immensely likable, and Agelica Huston deliciously detestable as her evil stepmother Baroness Rodmilla, and the production design is nothing if not sumptuous. Andy Tennant's direction, on the other hand, is about as inspired as one would expect from a guy who came out of television.
What They Changed: J.M. Barrie's "Peter Pan," the boy who wouldn't grow up, grows up. Because this was the early '90s, Peter has become a slick yuppie lawyer (Robin Williams) with two neglected kids and cell phone with a really long antenna (that was cutting edge back then). Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman) snatches the children to Neverland, where Peter has to reconnect with his inner-child in order to defeat the snarling pirate… who talks like Terry Thomas.
Did It Work? Uh, no. What should have been the easiest, most undefended three-point layup in Spielberg's career turned into one of the schmaltziest cheesefests in his starry filmography. All the sets look fake as hell, Robin Williams overacts like a squirrel on crystal meth, and the mohawked Lost Boys skateboard their way right into lamewad history. Bangarang!
'The Company of Wolves' (1984)
What They Changed: Essentially an erotically-charged version of "Little Red Riding Hood" with the sex and lycanthropy greatly enhanced, it centers on a young girl named Rosaleen (Sarah Patterson) whose grandmother (Angela Lansbury) knits her a red shawl and tells her to beware of strange dudes in the forest. Of course, she meets a strange a strange dude, grandmothers get eaten, etc…
Did It Work? Oh yeah. "Interview with a Vampire" director Neil Jordan creates a hauntingly spooky atmosphere while emphasizing the young girl's sexual rite of passage angle. The best part has to be a dreamy sequence when a wolf actually comes out of the MOUTH of a big bad wolfman.