Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013) – Review

2 Stars

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters sports a curious credit, produced by Will Farrell and Adam Mckay. After a bit of research I found that Mckay was developing this to direct Farrell and presumably their Stepbrothers collaborator John C. Reily, though I’m not sure how that would have played out without a female Gretel. Never-the-less it’s quite a tell that the genesis of this screen incarnation had its roots in comedy, perhaps that is fitting since the final product, while leagues removed from the original concept, is a bit of a howler. Particularly the grown-up Gretel’s opening line to Peter Stormare, the sheriff of Oxford and leader of a Salem-esque witch hunt.

At a scant 88 minutes which I clocked eight minutes of end credits, the film has been cut and whittled to within an inch of its cinematic life. It’s not so much edited as assembled with a meat cleaver. In the pre-title sequence (I honestly cannot think of any use of the pre-title sequence other than this is a MGM property and it’s iconic of their greatest asset Bond.) a young Hansel and Gretel watch as their parents are horrifically slain by a witch. As they are imprisoned in a fortress with outside walls built of candy, the evil witch who dwells in the enclosure warms her ovens in preparation of cooking and eating the children. In the process a struggle ensues and the sibling duo have stabbed the creature and vanquished her into the fires of her own stoves. From there they morph into adults, famously known and sought after for their skill in ridding villages of their demon infestations.

While searching for missing children, the pair stubble on a scroll foretelling of the Bloodmoon, a once in a generation occurrence this will happen in three nights time. Thus accounting for the increase in abductions and Witch sights. As the date draws nearer the brother and sister team is forced to confront a new form of evil and mysteries from their childhood.

Gemma Arterton who I thought was the more attractive of the two Bond girls in Quantum of Solace and the only reason I did not fall asleep in the dreadful Prince of Persia, which made her character whinny and annoying is quite a find here. She has the face of a movie star, and I imagine that based on the results here she could reach for the low hanging fruit and play Milla Jovovich types her entire career, but my instincts tell me that she will be on the level of Jessica Chastain or Jennifer Lawrence in a few years time. As for Jeremy Renner, all the goodwill from The Bourne Legacy has dissipated once again. I still believe he works best as a costar in supporting roles, he ranks somewhere between Paul Walker and Matt Damon on the leading man chain.

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters ranks high on the guilty pleasure barometer. Sure it’s goofy, the 3D nearly non-existent and the writing leaden, but it’s the January dumping ground and sometimes slickly produced entertaining schlock is just about all you can ask for from Hollywood during this time.

Director: Tommy Wirkola
Stars: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen

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