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Film Mom: 'Hansel & Gretel': How Dark Is Too Dark?

Film Mom: 'Hansel & Gretel': How Dark Is Too Dark?

The Film Mom is a weekly column about family entertainment for parents with kids (and kids with parents) by Tara McNamara, the editor and founder of

As fairy tales have evolved through the years, children’s publishers have cleaned them up. As originally written in the 1800s, many are gory, grotesque and heinous, and served as cautionary tales intended to keep kids on the straight and narrow. While it’s unlikely in 2013 that Hansel and Gretel’s father would abandon them in the woods so he has more food to eat with his new wife, many fairy tale themes involving stepfamily problems, temptation and disobedience do still resonate today.

So when Tim Burton’s semi-scary PG version of Alice in Wonderland broke into the top 10 highest grossing movies ever, Hollywood saw a formula: take the stories everyone grew up with and return them to their original frightening forms. Last year's spooky PG-13 Snow White and the Huntsman also brought in an enchanting amount of money, further encouraging the movement.

Now Hollywood’s trend of turning up the dark on childhood classics is literally removing the “child” from the equation.  This may come as a surprise, but you should know: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is rated R. It shows the siblings all grown up, bearing a to-be-expected hatred of witches that manifests in violent revenge. Such "reimaginings" may bring the fright factor – and perhaps the fun - to these tales, but I fear what might get lost is the author’s purpose: to teach children the moral of the story.

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters isn’t for families, so instead, try these movies:

Frankenweenie, ParaNorman, Brave and The Pirates! Band of Misfits: The Academy doesn’t always select the most family-friendly movies, but these Best Animated Picture nominees available on BluRay/DVD and on-demand are entertaining and appropriate for kids.

 Parental Guidance: Just like fairy tales, the family dynamic has also changed through the years. Billy Crystal shows that parenting styles may have changed through the years, but funny is still funny.



 Lincoln. Steven Spielberg brings an important piece of American history to life and teaches kids today that civics was just as complicated in the 1800s as it is today.




After the movie, have your kid write their own review at , where all kids are movie critics!

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