Meanwhile, in Hollywood…
Studio exec #1: We need more ass-kicking chicks in leather! But the last Underworld gave me cancer, so we need to think of something else!
Studio exec #2: Well, what about that girl Gemma Artero….Arer…Arterton? She’s bangin’. We could do a movie with her.
Studio exec #1: Yeah, that sounds hot. But what should the movie be? I’m thinking a spinoff. A remake of Manos: the Hands of Fate?
Studio exec #2: Something with Metal. Heavy Metal?
Studio exec #1: Manos…hands…
Studio exec #2: Metal? Petal?
Studio exec #1: Han..sel?
Studio exec #2: Gretel?
Or something like that. Really, this is a continuation of the classic fairy tale, picking up after the titular siblings cook the witch. Fast forward several years, and the pair are leather-clad witch hunters for hire. Children have been disappearing at an alarming rate as witches prepare for an ancient ritual. At the same time, the siblings (Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton) still struggle with the reasoning behind their parents abandoning them when they were children (leading to that fateful encounter at the candy cottage).
For those that can put up with the absurdity and ride with it, the movie can be fun. The siblings tote a myriad of insane, creative weapons that lay waste to the witches. Thankfully, we’re not fed any watered-down PG-13 nonsense; Hansel & Gretel refuses to skimp on the violence, with plenty of nasty gore, intestines, and other giblets strewn every which way. The action scenes themselves are energetic and creative, moving with an excellent momentum that makes them quite entertaining to watch. The final battle as well is quite a lot of fun; it’s the best kind of hand-to-hand fight, with characters getting thrown into and through pieces of furniture and scenery.
The witch design is also refreshingly creative. Witches in this film have cracked, decaying skin and creepy eyes, and some, as shown in the climax, have some sort of mutation (such as two witches joined at the back and one that drags herself by her arms). The inventive character design makes these scenes a little more interesting, though the use of CGI over makeup was disappointing.
There are three major plot twists in Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. Each and every one is incredibly obvious to anyone who has seen more than a couple of movies. They work in the film’s plot, but the fact that they can be spotted from a mile away sullies their effect, particularly since the film treats them as huge revelations. One of the film’s biggest twists was correctly (and audibly) guessed by the viewers behind me, though it’s highly likely he was voicing the collective thoughts of the rest of the auditorium. The other two were also visible from significantly far off, as their reveal followed the same plot structure of every other film with a similar twist. Anyone with a working knowledge of scripting or even general filmmaking should be able to guess these easily, making their buildup a waste of time and a bore.
While director Tommy Wirkola may have a knack for action, he certainly does not have the same handle on his actors. The performances here are almost universally bad, even from the reliable Peter Stormare, who can lighten pretty much any film he’s in. Famke Janssen, at least, has fun as the film’s villainous Muriel, hamming it up and exuding corny menace at every available second. Unfortunately, she, like everyone else, lacks chemisty with the rest of the cast, making the performances even more disingenuous than one would think possible in a movie about witch hunting with exploding crossbows.
Perhaps the worst part of the film is that it’s not particularly funny—at least, not in the way it wishes it was. While it can be highly amusing (and even laugh-inducing) to witness the nasty mayhem on display here, there is barely more than a scant handful of actual funny dialogue. Apart from two or three clever lines, this is one bad script. Yes, it is amusing that Hansel has diabetes as a result of eating too much candy as a child, but everything else sort of falls flat. Beyond that small handful, however, the movie fails to really deliver anything memorable in terms of dialogue. It’s a shame, since they really could have embraced the insane premise and gone for crazy one-liners, but as it stands it’s just a little stagnant when the action isn’t driving things forward.
It’s not good. At the same time, there’s not really a whole lot that’s offensively bad about it either. It’s merely there: there are fun bits, but overall this is one to maybe catch a matinee for, have a stupid fun time with, and promptly forget about. Ultimately, the movie will neither go down in history for being a blast, or be remembered as a “so bad it’s good” action flick. It’s nice and lean at 88 minutes, but you’ll probably forget about it a week afterwards. At least it’s better than The Brothers Grimm.
Take a Drink: every time Hansel or Gretel rest their weapons on their shoulder.
Take a Drink: whenever a new weapon is introduced.
Do a Shot: for each correctly guessed plot twist.
Take a Drink: during the final fight for each piece of broken scenery.