‘Once Upon A Crime’ (2023) Review: A Modern, Comedic Twist To The Classic Fairy Tale

Netflix’s newest adventure comedy out of Japan reimagines two of our favorite fairy tales as a unique detective story. Directed by Yuichi Fukuda and starring Kanna Hashimoto and Yuko Araki in the lead roles, the movie is an entertaining journey featuring all the major plotlines that make a fairy tale, along with a few detective elements. Running for 1 hour and 47 minutes, Once Upon a Crime will definitely be a fun watch. Here’s a detailed review for you to decide if the movie is for you or not.

What’s The Movie About?

The typical Brothers Grimm story of Little Red Riding Hood is how “Once Upon a Crime” opens, with a pretty young girl draped in red going on an adventure in the woods. You almost start feeling sorry for the little girl because she’ll soon be devoured by the big, bad wolf, but the story takes a very different turn very soon. Red’s path is obstructed by a strange witch who seems more comical than menacing, and perhaps that’s the idea. The witch, named Barbara, pleads with Red to give her her beautiful shoes, but ends up making a mess of them. When Red’s shoes are washed away downstream, she chases them down the river to find a blonde girl wearing her shoes, intently burying something. The new character is none other than Cinderella, immediately telling the audience that the movie will feature a crossover of fairy tales. Cinderella shares her sob story with Red, explaining how her evil stepsisters treat her like dirt while her stepmother is equally mean. She also tells her new friend that she is burying her pet pigeon that her stepsister Margot killed, and later, the stepsisters will be going to the castle where the prince will be choosing his bride.

In this country, beauty is prized above all else, and nobody who’s considered ugly or uncouth finds a place among the castles. However, Cinderella is determined to meet Prince Gilbert, and seeing how the girl gushes over this handsome prince, Red decides to call over Barbara, the witch, to give the two women a makeover. Now, beautifully dressed in red and blue, respectively, Red and Cinderella can go to the ball, but they still need shoes. Hence, Barbara calls her niece Tekla, who gives the ladies two pairs of glass shoes, while her aunt brings in a pumpkin and a few mice to become the carriage and the coachman, but anyone who’s read the tale of Cinderella as a kid should surely know this.

On their way to the castle, the coachman is scared after he accidentally runs over someone, and the ladies discover it’s a dead body, but Red notes that the victim, who’s none other than Hans, the royal hairdresser, had been dead already. The ladies hide the body and make their way to the castle, where Cinderella’s stepmother and other stepsister, Anne, are already there. The vacuous ladies wonder where Margot is, but most of their focus is dedicated to attracting Gilbert’s attention to Anne’s voluptuous bosoms. On the order of the king, a dance begins, and the prince chooses Cinderella as his dance partner, much to the delight of Red. However, the sweet moment is broken up when a guard runs in to announce the discovery of Han’s body. Soon, multiple secrets are exposed one after the other, including the deeds of Gilbert and how the woman of his true desire abandoned him. It’s revealed that Hans was a pervert with a fascination with collecting gorgeous strands of hair from beautiful women, and Gilbert had had an argument with the hairdresser, but he had to pipe down because Hans knew of the prince’s secret. A year ago, Gilbert was in love with Remi, a servant maiden, but because his father would never agree to the match, the prince threw his father’s crown in the trash. Now that it was proven that Gilbert was being blackmailed and he didn’t have an alibi to protect himself, the prince was taken away in chains as Red found a thorn where he was standing.

Suddenly turning into a detective, Red theorized that Gilbert couldn’t have been the killer because he was sitting atop a hill at the time Hans was killed, and the thorn proved the same. The thorn belonged to the raspberry fruits that grew on the hill, and when a hooded woman snuck in and confessed that she’d seen Gilbert sitting on the hill, Gilbert was released. However, it was almost 12 o’clock, so Cinderella and Red had to flee, but like in the original story, Cinderella tripped and left her glass slipper on the castle stairs for Gilbert to find.

At her stepmother’s house, Cinderella and Red are sleeping when the latter is awoken by noises outside. Red goes out to investigate and finds Margot, who explains how she’s being chased as the suspected killer of Hans. In the afternoon, Margot got a letter from Hans saying that he wanted to cut her hair, but when she showed up at his place, she was knocked out, and when she woke up, she saw Hans’ body before her, with the murder weapon in her hand. Before she could see the culprit, she was knocked out yet again, so she’d have to dispose of Hans’ body before Red’s carriage. When the guards arrive, Red hands Margot over to the guards, but she lets the chamberlain know that Margot isn’t the killer. The next day, Prince Gilbert shows up at Cinderella’s house with the glass slipper in hand. So who’s the killer, and do the prince and Gilbert get married to live happily ever after? Check out this goofy, comedic movie today to find out how the classic fairy tale with a Netflix twist ends.

The Positives

Once Upon a Crime is a fun-filled adventure drama featuring two of the most famous fairy tale characters in a different setting altogether. The entire cast is Japanese, and they speak only Japanese, but that doesn’t take away any of the fun the movie offers. Instead, it’s a delight to see such exquisitely dressed women in such lavish gowns, which makes us relive the fairy tales that we heard as children. The script is very simple and lacks too many subplots, but the execution is interesting, which is why the moments don’t seem very dull. Moreover, the movie offers a subtle commentary on the fascination of certain Asian countries with being beautiful and pretty, often more than being humane and kind. Hidden amidst jokes and quips, the movie reminds the audience to look beyond beauty, which is only skin deep.

The Negatives

Fortunately, the movie doesn’t have too many negative points that may sour the viewing experience. Perhaps the movie could’ve done with a shorter runtime because the plotline isn’t too convoluted after all. Other than that, the usual goofiness of the characters can be equated to the actions of anime characters, and at times, the movie feels like an anime but a good one. Overall, this is a movie you should surely check out if you like Japanese movies and fairy tales.

Notify of

1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Indrayudh Talukdar
Indrayudh Talukdar
Indrayudh has a master's degree in English literature from Calcutta University and a passion for all things in cinema. He loves writing about the finer aspects of cinema, although he is also an equally big fan of webseries and anime. In his free time, Indrayudh loves playing video games and reading classic novels.

Latest articles


Once Upon a Crime is a fun-filled adventure drama featuring two of the most famous fairy tale characters in a different setting altogether. 'Once Upon A Crime' (2023) Review: A Modern, Comedic Twist To The Classic Fairy Tale