Full disclosure: despite living in Washington state, one of the two US states in which weed is currently legal, I'm not a smoker. The old adage that weed makes a dumb movie funnier holds no water with me. However, some of the best comedies of the last twenty years (The Big Lebowski, Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, Pineapple Express) held up just fine without any encouragement. Sadly, Hansel & Gretel Get Baked does not join that list of contemporary classics, thanks to a lack of inspired gags and almost no interest in the fairy tale spoof it promises with the title.
In this version of the Grimm tale, Gretel (Molly C. Quinn) is...well, the movie doesn't really tell you what she is, other than a person who likes smoking weed. One weekend, while her parents are out of town, she's hanging out with her dumb boyfriend, Ashton (Andrew James Allen) when he offers her a hit of a new strain called Black Forest. Sadly, Ashton only has a tiny bit of the rockstar dope, and they've run out before they can get downstairs and try to bake gingerbread cookies. Ashton promises to get some more from Agnes (Lara Flynn Boyle), the mysterious old grandma who apparently grows it herself, but when he doesn't come back, Gretel enlists the help of her disapproving brother, Hansel (Michael Welch) to find out what happened to him.
The main problem with Hansel & Gretel Get Baked is that there's almost no meat on the bones of this 90-minute movie. All three of the stoner comedies I listed above use extremely well-written and clearly defined characters as the basis for comedy, but director Duane Journey and screenwriter David Tillman literally don't provide a shred of detail about Hansel or Gretel. Gretel, for instance, carries around a camera, snapping pictures of things. I suppose we can infer that this is his hobby, but nobody in the film ever provides any further information about it (despite the weird way in which he takes photos) aside from the act being depicted on screen. Gretel dresses in a costume that kinda suggests fantasy-style garb, but that too is unexplained. It could actually be argued we learn more about supporting characters, mainly drug dealers, beacause they're shown in more proactive scenes, and and we learn more about the nature of their relationships with other people.
Instead, we get lots of scenes with Agnes, who (for no other reason than it serves the fairy tale) starts out as a spindly old woman and de-ages when she sucks the youth right out of Ashton. To her credit, Boyle appears to be pretty game for the role, gleefully snacking on eyeballs; laying on the sarcasm in thick, dripping layers; and trying her best to vamp it up as a more modern version of an evil witch. Sadly, the script lets her down too, struggling to find anything really interesting for her to do. In typical juvenile fashion, the most outrageous thing Journey and Tillman could come up with is having her make out with Bianca (Bianca Saad, who comes off -- in a positive sense -- like a younger Sofia Vergara). Cary Elwes gets top billing on the cover, but while his committment is as good as Boyle's, his appearance is little more than a glorified cameo.
As previously mentioned, the fairy tale provides the most of the movie's structure, with the filmmakers half-heartedly nodding at it whenever the story needs to move forward. The main reference is a weed forest in Agnes' basement that Gretel uses a trail of Skittles to navigate, but the limited budget renders the sequence vague and unimpressive -- it looks like a warehouse, and it's hard to imagine the maze being that complicated (the perfect set-up for a joke the movie doesn't make about being too stoned to get out of the world's easiest maze). Action and horror beats are adequate but short and limited in scope, which makes the film feel like it's trying to do a wide range of things and not doing any of them very well. Hansel & Gretel Get Baked is competent enough to avoid being embarrassing, but not clever enough to be worth watching, stoned or sober.
Tribeca brings Hansel & Gretel Get Baked to Blu-Ray with lazy cover art that just tosses some floating heads together, between a wisp of pot smoke and a splatter of blood. Between the design and the font, it looks like one of those titles that (used to) only turn up in Blockbuster, released direct-to-video by a distributor nobody's ever heard of. At least one previous Tribeca disc I reviewed (The High Cost of Living had a little Tribeca flag on the cover), whereas this doesn't even have one of their logos on the spine. The logo shows up on the back, but it feels a little like a "classy" distributor trying to downplay their relationship with a dopey pot comedy. The disc comes in a standard Vortex eco-case (which uses less plastic but has no holes), and there is a leaflet promoting Tribeca Film inside the case.
The Video and Audio
For about a minute, the 1.85:1 1080p AVC transfer of Hansel & Gretel looks pretty good, but it's a short high. The title card is, unsurprisingly, accompanied by a cloud of smoke, but the banding floats in with it is more disconcerting. During daytime scenes, fine detail is great and colors are nicely saturated, with only overcooked whites as a distraction (and those could be intentional). Unfortunately, in any dark or low-light environment, the banding and poor contrast combine to create a uniquely ugly experience. Scenes that take place in Agnes' basement are a low point, where the banding literally covers every part of the screen -- a serious problem, considering the whole finale takes place there. The banding is also aggressively visible whenever a shot fades out. It's extra frustrating because a handful of dark shots look just fine, but the majority are pretty underwhelming.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is a somewhat similar experience. The song over that title card offers a little bit of bass, but the movie itself creates an obnoxious audio experience. The film's pretty quiet until there's a "horror moment" (chainsaws, zombies, and lots and lots of screaming), at which point it gets exceptionally loud, and these highs and lows will prompt viewers to keep a hand on the volume remote. English subtitles are provided, but they're a little weird -- half of the time, they appear justified to the left side of the screen. It may have been a partial attempt to "place" the lines over the person speaking, but it's almost a complete misfire. They also feature at least a couple of inaccuracies.
None. Trailers for Struck By Lightning, Irvine Welsh's Ecstasy, Hollow, and 388 Arletta Avenue play before the main menu.
This riff on Hansel and Gretel could've been a fairly funny spoof, but it lacks the wit and invention that any kind of comedy requires. Despite Lara Flynn Boyle's best efforts, skip it.
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