I started my review later than usual this week, partly because I just got back from a Girl Guide sleepover and I’d rather be in a coma recovering from a bad case of chronic exasperation, and partly because I’d rather read page after page of funny autocorrects than try to think of things to say about Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. But I’ve run out of funny autocorrects, so I guess we can talk about the movie now. It’s the Hansel and Gretel legend, but gimmicky.
Adult Hansel and Gretel discover secrets about their past while hunting witches who are stealing children from the forest.
I probably wouldn’t have bothered with this movie were it not for Jeremy Renner. The ‘re-imagining fairy tales’ thing is popular right now but 9 out of 10 attempts are not very good. Unfortunately, despite the Renner factor, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is one of the lousy ones. No wonder it took forever to get a release date.
I’m not opposed to the revamping of fairy tales per se. In fact, I read a very good short story about Hansel and Gretel as little psychopathic killers. I was reminded of that story during the prologue of Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, where young Hansel (Cedric Eich) and Gretel (Alea Sophia Boudodimos) bag their first witch by shoving her in the oven in the fabled candy house.
Jeez, they look like they’re watching cookies bake in there.
This movie’s twist – that Hansel and Gretel go on to kill more witches once they’ve grown up into Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton – is not very twisty. It’s just another excuse for rote violence. The writers are obviously not trying very hard with the characters of Hansel and Gretel either. They come off more like insufferable asshats than noble orphans molded into the world’s most competent witch hunters by their tragic past.
Attention Hansel: competent gun wielders pay attention to where their muzzles are pointing.
Hansel and Gretel are supposedly equals but Hansel get the good subplot where he falls in love with a good witch (Pihla Viitala) who is rather confusingly named after one of the protagonists from Dracula. Gretel, on the other hand, gets a fanboy (Thomas Mann) and (NO, I AM REALLY NOT MAKING THIS UP, I PROMISE) a budding relationship with a troll named Edward who looks vaguely like a green version of Ron Pearlman that was run over by an ugly truck.
Sadly Edward the troll does not sparkle or impregnate Gretel with a monster baby.
I haven’t mentioned witches yet, but there are witches in the movie. Lots of them. And they are also silly. They have a wide variety of deformities that make them look like the aliens from Star Wars, they sound like the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park and they run into traps on their broomsticks like the beleaguered scout troopers from Return of the Jedi, all to the tune of the music from Sherlock Holmes. When we finally get to the big witch vs hunter showdown, it can best be described as ‘Hansel and Gretel Shoot Up Mos Eisley.’
… as imagined by the Wachowski brothers.
The weird thing is: the movie seems to both know that it is stupid and not know that it is stupid, so the tone is kind of all over the place. They’ll have some goofy and funny dialogue poking fun at how implausible it all is. Then they’ll turn around and bite some dude’s nose off – and not even like they’re expecting us to laugh. Like they’re expecting us to go ‘Ugh!’ and shrink away… which you will, because it’s gross.
Attention parents: leave your impressionable little psychos at home for this one.
As far as the setting goes, I’ve heard this movie referred to as ‘steampunk,’ but the definition of steampunk is imagining what people from a certain (Victorian) time period would have deemed the next stage of development (i.e. steam powered clockwork machines). Steampunk is NOT defined as the shoehorning of random 21st Century objects into Medieval Germany. Hansel and Gretel have shotguns, watch alarms, tasers, and even insulin injectors (I know – INSULIN INJECTORS) like they have access to a time portal that leads into a Wal-Mart.
I got more than insulin in here. Watcha want? Penicillin? Valium? How about a Viagra?
So should you go see Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters? Um, no. Weren’t you listening? You know I love you, Jeremy Renner, but this movie is just too dumb, even for me… and I liked Wing Commander!