We’re looking at three films in the Journal today: 1991’s THE ADDAMS FAMILY, Peter Jackson’s first HOBBIT flick and the recent HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS. No real connection other than that they are all fantasy-based. All of them are also poised for sequels that happened, will happen or that producers really, really want to happen. So, there’s your theme for the day.
SCOTT’S FILM GEEK JOURNAL – ENTRY 45
THE ADDAMS FAMILY (1991) – Based on the classic television series, which was in turn based on the Charles Addams comics, THE ADDAMS FAMILY introduces us to a family of grim and strange people. Mourning the loss of his brother, Fester (Christopher Lloyd), Gomez (Raul Julia) is pleasantly stunned when Fester comes back into his life, lacking any memory of the previous decades. But this Fester is an imposter, placed there to gain control of the family fortune.
There are few films as perfectly cast as this one. Julia gives the role of his too-short career as Gomez and Angelica Huston is perfect as Morticia. But just as I thought when I saw it in the theatre all those years ago, the film is completely stolen by an 11 year-old Christina Ricci as daughter Wednesday Addams. Every single note of her performance is pitch-perfect and she still lends herself to the most memorable parts of the film.
And it’s a good thing that there are so many funny lines and asides, because the main plot is pretty uninspired. While Dan Hedaya makes a decent evil henchman, Elizabeth Wilson’s main villainess is just a standard character and just mucks up the works. ★★★ (out of ★★★★)
THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY (2012) – Bilbo Baggins is drafted into service by Gandalf and an army of dwarves, who seek to destroy the dragon Smaug and reclaim the dwarf kingdom which the dragon took over centuries before. Bilbo has a tough time gaining the acceptance of the dwarves and is faced with many hardships being away from home for the first time.
The reason this new HOBBIT trilogy exists is because people kept pestering Peter Jackson to make it. Originally, he wasn’t even going to direct it and was to hand over the reins to Guillermo del Toro. Eventually, del Toro dropped out and Jackson took over. He then made the fatal decision not to film it as one film or even two, but as a new trilogy. This is problematic. His LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy was based on a trilogy, one film for each of the three books. This new trilogy is based on one book, each film covering one-third of the action from the book. The rationale is that it gives Jackson an excuse to access some of the material found in the appendices and bring in characters from the LORD OF THE RINGS series. It also makes everything drag on at a snail’s pace. The action set-pieces are big and they have to be, since we can feel Jackson drag everything out with the introduction of several useless characters and pointless cameos of familiar faces.
Moreover, the film just doesn’t feel special. The LORD OF THE RINGS films were amazing because they undertook something that everyone said couldn’t be done. They created an epic that kept you wanting more. THE HOBBIT feels like it was done out of obligation and it just doesn’t have the spark of those earlier films. This means that I have no desire to see the two follow-ups THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG (check out the teaser here) or THERE AND BACK AGAIN. It may even have the unfortunate side effect of souring the RINGS films’ reputation, which would be a shame.
Which is not to say that the film is a total bust. This first HOBBIT film looks great. It has some truly amazing special effects and is pretty to behold. But there’s just nothing else to it but that. ★★ (out of ★★★★)
HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS (2013) – This twist on the fairy tale proposes that after killing the witch that intended to eat them, Hansel and Gretel became world-renowned witch hunters. They come to the city of Augsburg to find out who has been stealing the town’s children. They come across a Grand Witch (Famke Jannsen) who intends to perform a ritual that will tilt the balance in the witches’ favor.
HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS makes the wise decision to play things straight, but not too straight. What that means is that there is wise-cracking and modern tongue being spoken by the leads. However, the film doesn’t take its outlandish premise and turn it into a comedy. This is a pretty serious fantasy adventure that instead takes the position that its premise alone should take care of any qurkiness. It starts off a bit uneven, but settles in nicely and winds up being an exciting fantasy adventure. Some of the more obvious CGI was unfortunate, as was some of the tinkering which reeked of post-production interference. But all in all, a fun and unique film that has me curious as to what director Tommy Wirkola (DEAD SNOW) has up his sleeve next.
Another point I would like to mention is the great chemistry between Jeremy Renner and Gemma Atherton. It’s a refreshing brother-sister relationship that plays genuine. They rib on each other but are also very protective, being the only family they have left. ★★★ (out of ★★★★)
Number of films covered in the Journal so far: 209
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