Director: Tommy Wirkola
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Atherton, Famke Jenssen, Peter Stormare, Pihla Viitala, Derek Mears
Written by: Tommy Wirkola
Running Time: 88 mins
Release date: 27th February 2013
Remember the classic fairy tale about the two children left in the woods by their parents ans they come across a cottage made of sweets, only to find the owner was a hideous witch who imprisons them until they manage to escape and kill her by throwing her into a fire? What if these two children grew up to become witch hunters and make a career out of it. That’s the basic premise behind this spin on the tale. The problem is, what should have been a gloriously camp romp turns out to be a repetitive bore.
Several years after their abandonment, Hansel and Gretel, now bounty hunters, have been hired by a town’s mayor after their children have disappeared. The local marshal doesn’t like the idea of having the brother and sister act roaming around, especially after they publicly humiliated him. The pair soon find out that the woods are riddled with witches, led by the chief witch Muriel, who has plans of an almighty witch gathering at the next blood moon and knows a secret about Gretel that could help with her getting absolute power.
I know what you are thinking: I knew this was going to rubbish, just from the title. This is true but sometimes films can be bad and good at the same time, if they are presented right. Writer/director Tommy Wirkola has done it before with the inventive Z-Grade trash Dead Snow, in which a ski resort becomes the waking point for Nazi Zombies. Utter trash and yet massively enjoyable too. The same cannot be said for this.
The trouble is the overall tone of the piece. Everyone is taking it far too seriously, like this is some kind of new action superhero film. It’s not. It’s Hansel and Gretel, for goodness sake. So it should be played out like some trashy B-movie and played for laughs. I was certainly expecting it, especially as two of the producers are Anchorman creators Will Ferrell and Adam MacKay.
It also suffers from being continuously repetitive. The same thing happens over and over again but not in a good Groundhog Day way. Hansel and Gretel discover a witch, they fight, they get knocked down, they get up, they knock the witch down and capture it (or kill it). This happens time and time again and so after the third or fourth time, you want something more exciting to happen but it doesn’t. So come the finale and instead of building the anticipation, we get…not special.
As Hansel, Jeremy Renner, who is slowly becoming the go-to guy for action films, doesn’t seem to give us anything different from what we saw in The Bourne Legacy and Avengers Assemble. Gemma Atherton, as Gretel, looking good in leather trousers, at least proves she could be a decent action heroine if it wasn’t for the fact she was always becoming a damsel in distress and a decent script. Only Famke Jansesen has the good sense to lodge her tongue firmly in her cheek and play the evil witch like a pantomime villain but her performance sits uncomfortably out of place compared to everyone else.
The 3D is pretty pointless too, although it seems that Wirkola had forgotten until half way through and then decided to throw body parts at the screen. Yes, it is also a fairly gory affair, with limbs and heads exploding or being crushed, all on view and all seeming to be there just to bring some added excitement to the proceedings. It doesn’t work.
Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, in the hands of someone with more experience, would have sent the whole thing up and we could have had a jolly good time with it. Instead we get a bland and sometimes boring affair that doesn’t excite or amuse. If it only had that all important ingredient…oh yes…humour.