Movie Review: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

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Stars: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, Pihla Viitala, Thomas Mann, Peter Stormare

Rated R for strong fantasy horror violence and gore, brief sexuality/nudity and language, Running time 88 minutes, Action/Fantasy/Horror

Compare to: Van Helsing (2004), The Brothers Grimm (2005)

It’s tough to know where to start with this one. Expectations were so low, it would almost have been a feat for creators to meet them.

That being said, this movie is not good. Worse has been made sure, and even worse has already been released this year, but that’s not saying much for this movie either- “Eh, there’s worse out there.”

Drawing on the old Brothers Grimm fairy tale of the 1800s, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters brings a different approach to the story. After defeating the witch in the gingerbread house that hoped to eat them, The brother and sister duo began their lives as witch hunters; saving villagers and burning witches wherever they go, often for money. But when a particular witch begins calling on her sisters from all around the globe, Hansel and Gretel are in for the fight of their lives.

There really wasn’t too much to tell here. The title pretty much says anything you’d want to know about the movie. If I were to tell you there is a movie coming out called “Little Miss Muffet: Exterminator,” you could get an idea from there. The rest of the reveal will be in telling you that MTV films funded this while Adam Mckay and Will Ferrell produced. Yes, the same guys behind every movie Ferrell has done since Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy. So they’re even sticking with colons. But who produced a movie alone doesn’t have everything to do with quality in a film.

Many of the fights are frantic and tough; people being thrown through trees that explode while the assortment of weapons the title characters use are interesting choices for that time period, much like Hugh Jackman’s were in the above mentioned Van Helsing which carries much of the same tone, but thankfully not the undeserved piousness. Van Helsing thought it could be a fun, special effects heavy, Spring blockbuster- then would occasionally throw in serious moments that went for way too long, expecting us to care. Witch Hunters though, doesn’t have any pretension about what it is. They throw in a serious moment or two, but in the hour and not-even-forty minute running time it has, there’s not really much room for seriousness. There are witches to kill.

The witches are creative as well, especially the moments where you see how the different locations they live in affect their appearance and attire. Famke Janssen playing the part of a demonic, head witch seems so fitting I don’t know how she hasn’t already played several in her career. Interesting choice for director Tommy Wirkola (Dead Snow) to cast attractive women as witches, as if they may have been beautiful at some point but now they’ve got warts the size of their own head.

But like I said, don’t think that this is a good movie, you just may be one of the few in the audience who happens to like it. While it’s true that the movie doesn’t take itself seriously, that’s also a major flaw in its narrative; we never take any of it seriously, nothing ever feels tense, we don’t care what happens to our protagonists. While I’m not in favor of following formula because a fun movie is a fun movie- if you don’t care about anything that happens in the movie, it’s going to be a forgettable movie. And while they may have cut out what could have been a huge demographic with the R rating, the blood and guts on this one actually do help a little in letting us know how dangerous these witches are supposed to be.

What doesn’t help in Witch Hunters’ complete laziness in the quest for allowing you to care, is Jeremy Renner’s narration of the whole freaking movie is done in the same tone George Clooney used for Batman & Robin. You know what I’m talking about; A casual shake of the head, everything in slight deadpan as though he doesn’t care. Well, it sets the tone for the film well as you won’t really care either.

Though if you’re going to watch it, it does help to prepare yourself.

Grade: C-

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