“Once Upon an Enchanted Time.”
I don’t mind The Asylum studio at all. They are notorious for churning out their “mockbusters” – low-budget, similarly-titled movies intended to cash in on a bigger budget film’s publicity e.g. Transmorphers. And, let’s be honest, most of those do suck. However, they have achieved some renown for cheerfully silly creature features, the best-known of which is the Sharknado series. [Though in our house, we worship at a shrine to Mega Python vs. Gatoroid, starring those titans of 80’s bubblegum pop, Tiffany and Debbie Gibson.] Avengers Grimm occupies an odd middle territory: while its title is clearly intended to be riding the coat-tails of Avengers: Age of Ultron, yet a more accurate mockbuster title would be the one given above. The sole reference justifying the A word is when one character says, to no particular purpose, “We’re not heroes, we’re avengers.” Marvel’s legal department would probably beg to differ there.
For this is actually about the crossing over into the modern world of fairy-tale characters. The villain here is Rumpelstiltskin (Van Dien), who hijacks the magic mirror belonging to Snow White (Parkinson) since it can – an ability inexplicably omitted by the Brothers Grimm – act as a portal to our own, magic-free universe. He travels through dragging her with him, and by the time Snow’s princess posse catch up, he has become mayor of Los Angeles, because time flows at a different rate here. He is creating an army of “thralls,” mind-controlled minions that will do his bidding and allow him to expand his realm from a city to much further, and must be stopped. While Snow is trying to do just that, the arrival of her allies poses a problem, as they bring with them the last fragment of the mirror: it can be used to return to their world, or allow Rumpelstiltskin’s pals to join him. Making matters worse, he has enlisted the help of Iron John (Lou Ferrigno) and turned him into an unstoppable killing machine to hunt down the princesses.
This is as much an exercise in limiting expectations. Do not expect anything to do with Marvel, and instead something that’s an energetically low-budget riff on Once Upon a Time crossed with Enchanted, and you’ll be about there. There are probably a couple of princesses too many: outside of Snow, only Red Riding Hood (Peteron) and Rapunzel (Vanderbilt) made much impression, the latter swinging her weighted hair around like an offensively-coiffeured version of GoGo Yubari. There’s a nice subplot which has Red more or less going on her own mission, to take down the big, bad Wolf – one of Rumpel’s sidekicks – because he killed her parents. That’s the kind of inventive storytelling we could have used more of, or perhaps showing how the princesses adjust to modern life, which seems to happen with little more than a flick through a fashion magazine. However, Van Dien and Ferrigno make good foils for the ladies (many of whom come from Team Unicorn), and there are adequate quantities of princess ass-kicking. I was adequately entertained: and that’s more than can be said for my short-lived attempt to watch Once Upon a Time. This is a case where, as far as I’m concerned, the mockbuster tag probably does the film more harm than good.
Dir: Jeremy M. Inman
Star: Lauren Parkinson, Casper Van Dien, Elizabeth Peterson, Rileah Vanderbilt