Total Recall

Total Recall: Big-Screen Fairy Tales

With Snow White and the Huntsman hitting theaters, we run down some memorable films based on folkloric fantasy.

by | May 31, 2012 | Comments

Fairy Tale Movies

Snow White and the Huntsman opens this weekend, following closely behind Mirror Mirror and marking the second trip to theaters for the Fairest of Them All in 2012. With plenty of other folkloric fantasy adaptations in our recent past (Red Riding Hood, Beastly) and plenty more on the horizon (including Jack the Giant Killer and Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters), fairy tales are having something of a moment right now — but as any film fan could tell you, and as this week’s list demonstrates, this is nothing new in Hollywood. There are countless examples of filmmakers turning to fairy tales for inspiration, but we couldn’t possibly fit all those once upon a times and happily ever afters into a single feature. Which of your favorites made the cut? Find out in the latest Total Recall!

Beauty and the Beast

94%

We could have filled this list with Disney pictures, but that wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun — and still, when the time came to pick a Beauty and the Beast for our feature, it was no contest. A huge, Best Picture-nominated hit during its original run — and a big success all over again during its repeated reissues — Disney’s version of this timeless tale is the one that comes to mind for multiple generations when they think of Beauty and the Beast. And while it may have taken a few storyline liberties with the original text (and while the IMAX and 3D additions don’t really improve the story), the most important part remains: As Jay Boyar wrote for the Orlando Sentinel, it “Moves us because we know that true love can sometimes seem like a mismatch. And also because, in love, we can all feel like captives or beasts.”

The Brothers Grimm

38%

Their stories have inspired plenty of films, so it’s only fitting that Wilhelm and Jakob Grimm got to topline their own movie in 2005 — albeit one that starred Matt Damon and Heath Ledger as wildly fictionalized versions of the brothers. With a pair of matinee idols in the leads, Terry Gilliam behind the cameras, and an effects-heavy storyline that pitted the Grimms against a fairy tale curse and a wicked queen, The Brothers Grimm could have been a smash hit; unfortunately, its strife-plagued production only led to indifferent reviews and a mildly disappointing $105 million gross. Still, some critics thought Gilliam’s flair was enough to transcend the film’s flaws; as Bob Strauss of the Los Angeles Daily News argued, “You won’t want to pass this version of The Brothers Grimm on to your children. But you may find yourself coming back to marvel at parts of it for the rest of your life.”

Ever After: A Cinderella Story

91%

Starring an utterly winsome Drew Barrymore as the young woman who catches a prince’s eye — but has to overcome her stepmother’s cruel mistreatment to find true love — 1998’s Ever After drew on historical details for its background while offering a postmodern twist to the Cinderella story, positioning its heroine as a woman capable of saving herself from peril (and her royal beau, if need be). Sure, the audience knew the whole story by heart, but with Andy Tennant’s sumptuous direction, a supporting cast that included Anjelica Huston and Dougray Scott, and Barrymore in those glass slippers, they didn’t mind watching it unfold one more time — and neither did Roger Ebert, who proclaimed, “The old tale still has life and passion in it.”

Freeway

77%

When she made her debut in 1991’s The Man in the Moon, Reese Witherspoon looked like a luminous, innocent kid. Fast-forward five years later to Freeway, and goodness gracious, how things changed: A miniskirt-rocking Witherspoon starred opposite Kiefer Sutherland in this grimy, violent loose update on the story of Red Riding Hood, following a prostitute’s daughter on her dangerous journey up southern California’s I-5 freeway to find her grandmother. (Sutherland, naturally, was the leering serial killer standing in for the wolf.) While not a particularly pleasant film, Freeway earned its young star some career-boosting rave reviews, including Margaret A. McGurk’s writeup for the Cincinnati Enquirer: “I didn’t particularly want to like Freeway,” admitted McGurk, “but I couldn’t help myself. Reese Witherspoon made me.”

Hans Christian Andersen

83%

It’s named after the famous storyteller, but don’t watch 1952’s Hans Christian Andersen looking for a biopic; instead, producer Samuel Goldwyn opted to create a typically lavish musical extravaganza, starring Danny Kaye as Andersen in a sort of fairytale revue that includes nods to “The Little Mermaid,” “Thumbelina,” “The Ugly Duckling,” and “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” As a result, it’s sort of all over the place, but it has a certain gregarious charm that wasn’t lost on audiences, the Academy (who nominated it for six Oscars), or critics; as Variety put it, “No attempt at biography is made, so the imaginative production has full rein in bringing in songs and ballet numbers to round out the Andersen fairy tales told by Kaye.”

The Pied Piper

44%

Take a heaping helping of 1960s psychedelic strangeness, stir it into the timeless legend of the Pied Piper, and you’ve got this 1972 drama starring folk troubadour Donovan as the piper, who’s tricked by the unscrupulous Donald Pleasance into exterminating a village’s worth of rats and is then shortchanged on the fee. You know what happens next — the Piper gets even by stealing the village’s children, Donovan performs a few musical numbers, and Dylan humiliates him at a party. (Oh, wait — wrong movie.) Generally speaking, critics weren’t as entranced by The Pied Piper as the kids in the movie, but it earned nods of approval from a few scribes — including J. Hoberman of the Village Voice, who called it “A dark and smoky affair that, although set in Germany during the Black Death summer of 1349, suggests something brainstormed in a St. Marks Place head shop.”

Pinocchio

0%

Like plenty of other Oscar-winning actors, Roberto Benigni used the clout he earned with his awards (Best Actor and Best Foreign Film for Life Is Beautiful) to help get his passion project made. And it had plenty of potential, too — Carlo Callodi’s The Adventures of Pinocchio is a classic book, but the character has become more closely identified with its somewhat bowdlerized Disney counterpart, and Benigni could have channeled his love for the book into a more faithful film. Alas, he chose instead to create one of the strangest (and vaguely creepiest) family movies of the 21st century, starring Benigni himself (who also directed and co-wrote the script) as the impish wooden boy. In fairness, it should be pointed out that the international version of Pinocchio did fairly well, but in the States, the English overdubs only compounded the overall weirdness of what unfolded on the screen. As an incredulous Edward Guthmann asked for the San Francisco Chronicle: “What can one say about a balding 50-year-old actor playing an innocent boy carved from a log?”

Shrek

88%

Strictly speaking, the Shrek franchise was inspired by the classic William Stieg children’s book from which it takes its name — but along the way, the four Shrek films (plus their Puss in Boots spinoff) have gotten a lot of mileage out of lampooning fairy tales. From the first film, which featured a heroic ogre and a princess who knew kung fu — not to mention comedic cameos from Pinocchio, the Gingerbread Man, the Three Little Pigs, and many others — the Shrek series has offered critically approved (and wildly commercially successful) proof that there’s still plenty of creative life left in the stories we all know by heart. They are, as CNN’s Paul Tatara wrote of the first film, “A heck of a lot of fun — even if you don’t believe in fairy tales.”

Sydney White

35%

Put Snow White on a modern college campus and substitute a gaggle of social outcasts for the seven dwarves, and you’ve got 2007’s Sydney White, an Amanda Bynes rom-com about an adorably perky freshman who runs afoul of a popular girl on campus and ends up befriending seven unpopular kids. Along the way, she unwittingly infuriates her nemesis with her widely acknowledged beauty, suffering the effects of an infected Apple (computer) for her transgression before being kissed by…well, you know the story. In spite of Bynes’ charms and the aforementioned clever modern parallels, Sydney struck out with audiences as well as most critics — although it proved a pleasant diversion for Laura Kern of the New York Times, who argued, “Ms. Bynes, with her cherubic face, expressive eyes and comic timing, helps create a positive, pleasing diversion that caters to the geek in all of us.”

tom thumb

67%

Starring Russ Tamblyn in the title role, this 1958 production put a whimsical (and appropriately special effects-heavy) spin on the tale of a diminutive lad who always seems to be getting himself out of one horrible jam after another. With a stellar supporting cast that included Alan Young and Peter Sellers, soundtrack assistance from Peggy Lee, and direction from FX wiz George Pal, tom thumb turned a handsome profit at the box office, earned an Academy Award for Special Effects, and earned praise from a number of critics — including the folks at Film4, who called it “one of the most memorable and beloved films directed by special-effects pioneer Pal, with Tamblyn looking bright and fresh-faced as the diminutive fairytale hero.”


Take a look through the rest of our Total Recall archives. And don’t forget to check out the reviews for Snow White and the Huntsman.

 

Tag Cloud

Kids & Family 4/20 The Witch Hallmark Prime Video Grammys Syfy Freeform Writers Guild of America First Look Turner Classic Movies action-comedy Disney streaming service dark HBO boxing Spectrum Originals kids HBO Go aliens telelvision golden globe awards screen actors guild quibi rt archives comic book movies Captain marvel Infographic political drama stoner indiana jones BET Awards Wes Anderson TCA Awards vampires free movies cinemax CNN Nickelodeon 2019 nature Character Guide science fiction batman emmy awards FXX cancelled TV shows Emmys TCA Winter 2020 live event Chernobyl CBS Music New York Comic Con Marvel Studios Podcast Calendar hispanic best all-time Universal Pictures Amazon Baby Yoda romantic comedy Pacific Islander new zealand politics streaming movies mcc doctor who Disney Channel Epix remakes Bravo fast and furious green book documentaries Dark Horse Comics Paramount Network RT21 Avengers critic resources strong female leads discovery Exclusive Video 2016 PlayStation 2020 TV movies crime drama psycho Acorn TV versus Red Carpet cars BET Winter TV Binge Guide MCU Premiere Dates fresh Shondaland FOX new york dreamworks Stephen King BBC rom-coms Academy Awards Reality ESPN live action Action dceu unscripted ratings golden globes ID rt labs superhero RT History Watching Series Legendary news black period drama directors worst stand-up comedy Columbia Pictures 007 high school wonder woman satire Alien critics Cannes book adaptation slasher Instagram Live Hulu police drama italian Heroines movies Nat Geo Photos mockumentary Fargo SDCC VICE archives popular Paramount SundanceTV marvel comics crime thriller diversity Countdown Mystery reboot Horror facebook Turner comics sopranos zero dark thirty Paramount Plus spinoff kaiju 72 Emmy Awards a nightmare on elm street TV One National Geographic Mudbound Logo cops Best and Worst Nominations video Quiz award winner dexter razzies Pride Month Biopics mutant kong king kong IMDb TV MTV rotten Amazon Prime sequels Sci-Fi ViacomCBS Song of Ice and Fire 90s Western Country Discovery Channel Star Trek dragons Black History Month Classic Film 2017 Fox News BAFTA GLAAD Sundance Tokyo Olympics Food Network cooking TV Hollywood Foreign Press Association Netflix Christmas movies miniseries stop motion Television Critics Association Broadway canceled debate children's TV VOD Set visit casting historical drama Spike feel good NBC TCA Showtime DGA Valentine's Day Rom-Com halloween Apple TV Plus AMC Plus australia 99% art house heist movie Netflix game of thrones X-Men game show godzilla NYCC AMC Christmas book Lionsgate Rocketman 93rd Oscars Tubi crossover marvel cinematic universe jurassic park Film Festival TLC docuseries Thanksgiving Emmy Nominations comiccon FX new star wars movies TIFF See It Skip It rt labs critics edition CMT sports true crime football asian-american richard e. Grant Polls and Games Masterpiece Martial Arts Peacock Vudu space monster movies Warner Bros. finale Fall TV spanish language 45 harry potter TCA 2017 robots Mary Tyler Moore Lifetime Christmas movies Tags: Comedy docudrama biography DC Universe franchise Comic-Con@Home 2021 Cartoon Network Hear Us Out series laika spider-verse Interview 2015 ABC Signature Endgame scary Super Bowl Arrowverse Amazon Prime Video medical drama festival women composers American Society of Cinematographers 2018 spy thriller First Reviews TV renewals video on demand Lucasfilm Walt Disney Pictures chucky The Walking Dead Cosplay IFC Films Winners vs. Crunchyroll cancelled TV series scorecard ghosts Reality Competition Fantasy spanish Superheroes Comedy Summer San Diego Comic-Con E3 foreign comic books sequel 20th Century Fox The Purge Disney Plus breaking bad cults basketball APB Image Comics ABC Family History mob A24 binge Box Office YouTube Premium Trophy Talk cats 71st Emmy Awards President 1990s Starz Film scary movies james bond FX on Hulu halloween tv christmas movies Tumblr 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards black comedy royal family supernatural Amazon Studios Pop TV Disney pirates of the caribbean Tarantino TBS hidden camera romance legend french Apple japan revenge Ellie Kemper international NBA Travel Channel biopic comic MSNBC Anna Paquin cancelled television suspense Musicals trophy rotten movies we love social media Holidays Comedy Central Britbox based on movie criterion Tomatazos twilight SXSW Rock Trivia theme song 79th Golden Globes Awards Trailer LGBTQ spain LGBT justice league dogs TCM Adult Swim OWN mission: impossible obituary Sneak Peek blockbuster VH1 Superheroe Black Mirror Television Academy japanese elevated horror Elton John werewolf Awards Tour deadpool TruTV dramedy Hallmark Christmas movies adenture The Arrangement hollywood BBC One films Neflix aapi Musical posters comedies zombies ABC animated what to watch lord of the rings Rocky WGN young adult Animation ITV witnail spider-man USA Family talk show thriller Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt PaleyFest Shudder television blockbusters anime sag awards south america Sundance Now Opinion target comic book movie technology sitcom PBS The Academy serial killer Sundance TV Brie Larson prank IFC YA slashers DC Comics BBC America jamie lee curtis latino olympics crime saw GIFs travel TV Land Ghostbusters Mary Poppins Returns Toys screenings leaderboard Funimation die hard Extras Comic Book toy story Spring TV indie TNT streaming Schedule disaster Creative Arts Emmys 2021 Video Games Apple TV+ trailers worst movies scene in color classics natural history Election Awards gangster Marvel joker 73rd Emmy Awards Mary poppins Pop A&E hispanic heritage month concert Pet Sematary YouTube Red transformers Fox Searchlight Pirates El Rey Year in Review Oscars 21st Century Fox movie 24 frames Star Wars adventure OneApp Marvel Television CW Seed blaxploitation singing competition anthology child's play superman war tv talk documentary DC streaming service nfl renewed TV shows E! toronto Disney+ Disney Plus Women's History Month reviews Pixar Marathons Universal The CW DirecTV GoT parents king arthur teaser Mindy Kaling hist WarnerMedia know your critic Holiday YouTube genre adaptation Ovation canceled TV shows Lifetime HFPA Esquire name the review cancelled independent dc boxoffice Teen psychological thriller nbcuniversal zombie Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Crackle The Walt Disney Company venice universal monsters cartoon Comics on TV HBO Max Sony Pictures CBS All Access USA Network festivals Certified Fresh Drama