I’m not sure how anyone thought this movie was a good idea. Taking Hansel and Gretel from the classic Grimm fairy tale and making them adult witch hunters obviously sounded good to someone. Add a two-time Oscar nominee as the lead, make it 3D, and load it with tons of blood and gore and you have a sure-fire classic, right? Well that’s “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” in a nutshell. Not the ‘sure-fire classic’ bit, but the rest is an accurate description.
As ludicrous as the concept sounds, “Hansel and Gretel” isn’t the worst movie you’ll watch and forget. That’s mainly because the film has a sense of humor about itself. It’s as if it knows it’s a loud and dumb movie, and it’s perfectly content to be just that. Writer and director Tommy Wirkola attempts to create an odd mix of action, comedy, and horror out of a fairy tale that is pretty gruesome in itself. The problem is the humor only occasionally works. It does lighten the tone at times, but the gags often fall flat. That leaves the action and horror, both of which leave something to be desired.
As I mentioned, Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and his sister Gretel (Gemma Arterton) are all grown up now. They are traveling witch hunters who are summoned to the town of Augsburg to help find some missing children thought to be abducted by witches. The siblings soon find out that something much more sinister is at work when an evil grand-witch named Muriel (Famke Janssen) reveals herself. She has evil plans centered around some goofy Blood Moon ritual that’s requires child sacrifices, a witch’s heart, and other nonsense. Hansel and Gretel quickly find out that saving the day is going to be tougher than they originally thought.
That’s really all there is to the movie. The main story is pretty bland and the backstory, which attempts to add some depth, really isn’t all that interesting. As I mentioned, there is some humor that occasionally works. For example Hansel is a bad diabetic as a result of his candy/witch encounter as a child. Some of those silly touches do lighten things up a little and offer the occasional chuckle. But they also clash with the more serious tone that we often get.
“Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” is your common ‘one-and-done’ movie. You’ll watch it once and probably won’t visit it again. That said, it’s really hard to recommend seeing it the first time. I like Renner and Arterton (a lot actually), but they aren’t enough to make this film rise above its material. Again, is it the worst movie you’ll see? Hardly. Does it have a few moments that work? Well, yes. But are there a number of better ways you could spend your time? Most definitely. But you probably knew that the moment you saw the film’s title.