“With the help of God”
Ever wonder what might happen to your beloved childhood bedtime stories if they were told to you by your bitter, disgruntled grandmother? Wonder no more because director Nicky Phelan has brought the world the experience with her animated version of writer Kathleen O’Rourke’s character in Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty. There is nothing like a theatrical old woman telling a story, doing her best to draw out strong emotions while her own get the better of her. The short film’s granddaughter just wants to go to bed with her stuffed animal, but Granny will have none of it, plopping down to tell one of her famous bedtime tales—starting sweet and normal, yet soon devolving into vengeful diatribe.
You don’t really know what to expect at the start, somewhat disoriented by the fear you see on the young girl’s face once Grandma enters the room. This is not the first time she’s stopped by for the nightly ritual, that’s for sure. The name ‘Grimm’ itself should prepare you for the fact that the fantasy won’t be a Disney-fied version, but I can’t say I anticipated the direction it finally ends up going. Granny definitely has some pent-up rage hidden beneath her sweet, bifocal wearing exterior, ready to be unleashed on all those frowning upon her disintegrating, walker-dependent body. All those pretty little bimbos walking around oblivious to their future of gravity will have their comeuppance, even if it’s only within the constraints of a fairy tale romance—funnily devoid of that one trait the actual Sleeping Beauty is known for.
Rather then watch as Sleeping Beauty grows up and becomes enchanted in slumber until a handsome Prince can rescue her, Granny tells of an elderly fairy not invited to the young one’s party. In her anger she crashes the scene and makes her displeasure known, cursing those in attendance and cackling profusely. The granddaughter desperately tries to shield herself from the scary visage sitting at the side of her bed, hoping for the chance of a happy ending to maybe let her wide eyes find solace in even a wink of sleep that night.
The true success really lies in the performance of O’Rourke in portraying Granny O’Grimm as the two-faced Irish woman. People have thrown fairytales on their heads before, using them for fright rather than hope, so nothing in that regard is new and original. No, the over-the-top theatrics trump the piece’s artistry and story due to its sheer hilarity as the woman goes from soft dulcet tones to loud anger-laced screams—even doing her own foreboding echo to add a little pizzazz. Not to say the animation is bad; it’s actually really good. The use of both computer-generated 3D work for the ‘real world’ and 2D perspective for the fantasy is handled successfully. I also loved the blurred reflection of our two leads in the mirror across the room from the bed. It is a beautiful rendering of depth in the room and a nice detail.
Perhaps the series will expand with more tales we know and love, altered to cause Granny’s little girl to grow up jaded and paranoid—especially if the poster is to be believed, talking about 26 x 11 minute episodes. Will they work now that the premise is revealed? I’m not so sure. That surprise of tonal shift really did it for me. I don’t quite know if the freshness can continue to be sustained on subsequent entries.
Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty 7/10 | ★ ★ ★
Watch the Oscar-nominated animated short at its website: www.grannyogrimm.com