‘A Tale Dark & Grimm’ Review: A Dark Story Told In A Light Manner

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Many people are familiar with the Hansel and Gretel story, which was written by the Brothers Grimm back in 1812. Though it’s supposed to be for children, this German fairytale is not the lighthearted frothy kind where it is all puppies and rainbows. It focuses on how the brothers are abandoned in the forest and land in the net of a cannibalistic witch who fattens them up to eat them. Honestly, it’s the perfect recipe for a nightmare for the sensitive minds of the little ones. 

Various versions of this story, good and bad, have been developed over the years, and Netflix is the latest producer to give this iconic tale a shot. It comes in an animated series premiering on the streaming platform titled ‘A Tale Dark & Grimm’ based on the best-selling book series of the same name by Adam Gidwitz. The narrative follows the intriguing adventures of everyone’s favorite siblings Hansel and Gretel and spans through ten half-hour episodes for its first season. ‘A Tale Dark & Grimm’ is available to stream on Netflix from September 8.

This fantastic show features the voices of Andre Robinson from ‘The Loud House’ and Raini Rodriguez, best known for Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous’, as Hansel and Gretel respectively with other characters in the series being voiced by Scot Adsit, Ron Funches, Erica Rhodes, Adam Lambert, Eric Bauza, Tom Hollander, Missi Pyle and Nicole Byer. The animation is done by Canadian company Jam Filled Entertainment responsible for the long-running series ‘Thomas and Friends.’ Industry veteran Simon Otto best identified for ‘Trollhunters: Tales of Arcadia’ and ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ trilogy, serves as the series’s supervising director and executive producer. Other helmers for the show are Jamie Whitney and Meredith Layne.

This feature narrates the tale of Hansel and Gretel but now with a twist to their story. While in the original fable, they are mere peasants, in this version, they are a prince and princess who run away from their posh palace after their father threatens to put their heads through the guillotine. Scared for their lives, the royal duo wanders in an enchanted forest, searching for the perfect parents. On their quest, unexpected narrators guide the audience through their encounters as they encounter sorcerers, warlocks and even the devil himself. The siblings also get to learn the true stories behind other classic Grimm fairy tales. The pair does all these to gain full control of their destinies, aiming for the ultimate happily ever after.

Compared to its predecessors, ‘A Tale Dark & Grimm’ is a lighter version of the scary stuff when put side by side to the original, but it still has some pretty dark nuances. For instance, the man-eating witch still makes an appearance in one of the episodes, and there is a creepy man who keeps following them around. Though the way all this is presented will instill immense humor to the adorable munchkins however grownups might find the disturbing meanings behind what’s portrayed on the screen.

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Each episode in the series pursues a different fairy tale in the duo’s lives which are pieced together by their desire to belong somewhere where they are loved and accepted. It’s pretty disheartening to think that their own father would threaten to behead his own children, which made them run away and try to feed for themselves instead of staying in a life of comfort and luxury that could end their lives at any moment. Three crows help take the audience through the story, and they are spread across the series, which serves as a reminder to viewers what’s going on. The first crow is a violence-loving psychopath representing a group of people who possess such characteristics and mannerisms. The other is concerned about the audiences’ mental well-being, more like the therapist. The third one is the narrator of the series. This trio hilariously breaks the fourth wall to speak directly to the audience, which captures and retains their attention, sucking them into the fairy tale world of the siblings. 

Something admirable about the show is its use of humor to neutralize the seemingly heavy central theme. Even the darkest of moments are made a bit lighter thanks to the inclusion of some comedic aspects. It isn’t a fully-fledged laugh-fest, but it is good enough to kick out the looming nightmares. At some point, the crows mentioned earlier constantly question whether it is okay for kids watching to be exposed to this content and to be honest, adult audiences are bound to find themselves asking this same question several times. 

The sets and scenes are beautiful and colorful, and the adventures seem like so much fun. The various narratives are captivating to watch, there are plenty of lively and fun moments, and the younger members of the audience get to draw great lessons from the show. The emotional theme of love and family plays beautifully throughout the series.

On the other hand, there are some depressing moments that could easily scare the little ones, but still, the takeaways, in the end, serve their purpose of educating the young in society about the dangers that flood the outside world.

The animation is beautifully done. Most of the scenes are in 3D, but the series also switches to 2D, which is still gorgeous. The contrast and the interchanging between the two styles blends in nicely, resulting in a visual spectacle that is warm and endearing. 

Generally, even though the audience feels like they know the story and where it is headed, the writers introduce a sudden twist that throws the audience off and keeps things interesting. For instance, when the twosome encounters the witch with an appetite for kids, one is very curious why they would even go there, and when the nasty reveals why she relishes kids, one will definitely laugh out aloud once the reason is told.

Despite all episodes being catchy and captivating, if one binges the series in one sitting, they might feel like the gimmick is too much and a bit overwhelming as one continues, the laughs become less, one starts caring a little less about the story. So, binging might not be a great idea, especially for adult audiences.

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Generally, the storyline is well crafted. It is simple enough for the young audiences to understand and enjoy and complex to appeal to the adults. The characters, the content, and the narration is pretty intriguing. The voice talents expertly tell the story, with the voices matching the characters they represent perfectly. Adam Lambert as the word crafting devil was hilariously impressive. It is a great show that combines humor and heart and is definitely worth every single minute.

SCORE: 8/10

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