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Once Upon a Crime - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Akazukin, Tabi no Tochuu de Shitai to Deau

Japan 2023

Fantasy, Comedy, Thriller

Yuichi Fukuda

Kanna Hashimoto
Yuko Araki
Takanori Iwata
Tsuyoshi Muro
Miki Maya
Natsuna Watanabe
Yumi Wakatsuki
Mizuki Yamamoto
Midoriko Kimura
Mirei Kiritani
Masaki Kaji

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Once Upon a Crime

Once Upon a Crime - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Little Red Riding Hood (Kanna Hashimoto) is wandering through the woods when she is suddenly approached by a witch. Because of the witch's faulty magic, Little Red Riding Hood has to run after her shoes, which are getting washed away by a stream. Eventually, she finds the shoes on a girl who is burying a bird. The girl introduces herself as Cinderella (Yuko Araki), and thanks to her special abilities, Little Red Riding Hood immediately knows that Cinderella is being treated extremely badly by her stepmother and stepsisters. In the kingdom, a big ball is supposed to take place in the evening, at which the prince (Takanori Iwata) is supposed to find his bride, and Cinderella would also love to attend. However, she doesn't have the right clothes. Thanks to a fairy, though, the problem is quickly solved, and so she and Little Red Riding Hood set out to get to the ball. Suddenly, their carriage stops, though. The carriage seems to have hit a man on the road. Little Red Riding Hood immediately realizes that the man was already dead and that someone was trying to cover up the murder this way. But in order not to have the ball being cancelled because of a murder investigation, Little Red Riding Hood hides the body for now. At the ball, the prince decides to dance with Cinderella, but her luck ends abruptly when the ball is stopped because the body was found quicker than expected. None of those present are allowed to leave until the murderer is found...

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Once Upon a Crime - Film Screenshot 4

Review: Movies like this Netflix production can only turn out to be either an innovative reinterpretation of Grimms' fairy tales or an absolute failure. The trailer suggested the latter to be true, but curiosity still won me over, and so I can now say with absolute certainty: "Once Upon a Crime" represents your typical Saturday afternoon program - completely unnecessary. The special thing here is supposed to be a murder being thrown in there, but it is presented in such an uninteresting way and without any serious revelations that it is almost embarrassing. You keep waiting for the mystery to make you want to guess along in some way, but in vain. In addition, there are characters whose lifelessness stands in stark contrast to the rich and cheerful colors of the well-done costumes. And you also need to be quite insensitive to pain to actually make it past the first half hour of the flick.

Once Upon a Crime - Film Screenshot 5

I can't remember the last time that I was thinking after half an hour of watching a movie that I wasn't going to finish it. But the fact that everything looks like a kid's movie from the afternoon program almost made me break my golden rule of giving every movie a chance that doesn't make me fall asleep right away. In the end, the colorful sets kept me going, and so did the fact that the humor hinted at the movie not taking itself too seriously. Once you have overcome some of the rather embarrassing moments, things actually get a bit more exciting with the murder. At least until we realize that there is no great stroke of genius when it comes to the resolution. Strictly speaking, the interpretations of the events continuously disappoint, and you can't even guess a lot of the revelations because we simply don't have the background information needed. The resolution towards the finale is not any better either.

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At least, after the murder, the movie no longer seems like it's aimed at a very young audience. Sometimes, the humor isn't even that bad, even though some aspects clearly get lost in translation. As you would expect, there are always a few flashbacks that are supposed to shed light on some new circumstances, put additional characters in the picture or present a "twist". As mentioned before, though, these twists are very disappointing. Little Red Riding Hood is introduced as an extraordinary investigator, but her discoveries could have come from any third-class private detective. So, "Once Upon a Crime" isn't particularly well written. But director Yuichi Fukuda, who was already responsible for the manga adaptation of "Gintama", takes his time to celebrate the sets and costumes. The ball, in particular, shows that the director clearly focused on that aspect, which sometimes comes across as a needlessly long insertion, though.

Once Upon a Crime - Film Screenshot 7

The costumes are indeed very well done and always a feast for the eyes. Some of the sets are able to convince, too, which is also thanks to the rich colors. Some of the CGI effects, however, are less convincing, specifically those of the castle. The direction, on the other hand, mostly works, which is due to a few unusual camera angles as well as the fact that some scenes look as if they came from a play. This gives the movie a certain dynamic and makes you forget the unconvincing start. A big plus is the score, which repeatedly picks up and rearranges classic pieces. Nevertheless, the story is extremely flat, which is a pity because superficial beauty is actually the main motif, and it is considered the most important attribute in the kingdom. It is quite clear right from the beginning that the story's goal is to turn this theme into some kind of message, but the way it is done towards the end is once more quite disappointing.

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The fact that the story is so flat is rather surprising, because it is based on a novel by Aito Aoyagi. For the same reason, it's hard to understand why the characters turn out so incredibly one-dimensional. In a way, Kanna Hashimoto ("Violence Action") takes us through the movie, but the mere fact that there is no reason for Little Red Riding Hood to accompany Cinderella makes us wonder about her motives. The rest of the cast just seems equally unapproachable. So, the costumes actually exude more life than any of the individuals. Which kind of makes you want the exaggerated witch from the beginning to return. So, all that's left to say is that "Once Upon a Crime" fails in conveying any message with its story, the characters are uninteresting, and only the costumes and sets are able to convince. Here and there, you think you can catch a glimpse of something that could have given the fairy tale a special touch, but the end result is still a fantasy flick that you can confidently steer clear of.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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