The cracked and craggy witches sport all manner of wicked-looking scales, spikes and horns…
“Whatever you do, don’t eat the fucking candy.”
Review by David Feltman
I once saw a five-minute student film titled “Bad Moon,” in which Little Red Riding Hood goes on a “Kill Bill” like revenge spree against the three little pigs, Hansel and Gretel and the big bad wolf. Despite its brief runtime, it was clever, funny and action packed. Unlike “Bad Moon,” “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” has big budget 3D effects, star power and studio backing. But also unlike “Bad Moon,” “Hansel & Gretel” is as flat as a gingerbread man.
After their childhood encounter with the witch in the candy house, the titular siblings develop a healthy hatred of witches and decide to dedicate their lives to hunting them. The duo discovers a witch plot to sacrifice children in order to become immune to fire and (SPOILER ALERT) Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) stop them, mostly with anachronistic weaponry.
The holes in the plot are too many and too big; the chief among them is that the witches actually have a number of weaknesses. Early in the film Renner lists: beheading, skinning and heart removal as all viable options, fire is just the preferred method. In fact, most of the witches in the film are killed by guns, crossbows and various pointy things. The entire premise is thus entirely pointless.
Story aside, the movie has its moments. The film’s makeup effects are impressive, though ultimately repetitive. The cracked and craggy witches sport all manner of wicked-looking scales, spikes and horns, but there’s little variation in the individual designs. The action scenes are tense and volatile and the 3D is actually well executed. The amount of nudity and gore present is amusingly jarring, but functions as little more than fan-service.
The most frustrating thing about watching “Hansel & Gretel” is seeing the sheer number of missed opportunities. There are some great ideas in the film, but too many are poorly managed and/or completely abandoned. Learning that Hansel has developed diabetes is inspired, but that detail is flatly delivered and never mentioned again. Later, a troll casually reveals a major plot point that should shatter the siblings’ entire world-view, but neither one is remotely phased. The characters are constantly robbed of any meaningful arc. In the right hands, “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” may have been as fun and imaginative as “Hellboy” or “Troll Hunter.” Unfortunately it turned out as dull and unnecessary as “Van Helsing” or another “Underworld” movie.