Movie Review: HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS
Possible mild spoilers, but you shouldn’t bother with the movie anyway.
What if Hansel and Gretel, after surviving their ordeal in the gingerbread house, dedicated their lives to ridding the world of witches? The latest in the current vogue of dark and gritty takes on fairy tales, HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS — like all the others in the trend — had promise as a concept. And, like the others in the trend, it had no idea what to do with it.
Were it not for the presence of Jeremy Renner and reasonably solid production value, you could easily have convinced me that this was a direct-to-video or SyFy Channel offering. But no, that’s unfair — SyFy Channel movies at least have a sense of campy fun, which this film sorely lacks. Instead of embracing the inherent silliness of the concept — of acknowledging and running with the sheer ridiculousness — HANSEL & GRETEL tries so hard to convince you it’s not silly, no sir; it’s actually badass, like WANTED or something.
But their witch-hunting gear and tactics are dull and unimaginative — the action beats mostly consist of sneaking up on witches in the woods and getting into fistfights with them — and the only even slightly tongue-in-cheek H&G joke is a plot point about Hansel needing regular insulin injections, because he contracted diabetes from the incident at the Gingerbread House.
(I frankly wonder how much the writer even bothered to study the story for inspiration — there’s no reference to the trail of breadcrumbs, but there’s a reference to someone’s porridge being “just right.” Look, movie. Either you’re going to do the wink-wink-nudge-nudge fairy tale tomfoolery or you’re not. You can’t just throw in a single reference and call it a day. Go all in or don’t go at all.)
At 88 minutes, it’s on the short end of the feature spectrum. I’ve seen some 90-ish minute movies lately that felt like they were three hours, so on the one hand it was a relief to watch a movie that didn’t drag its feet. Unfortunately, one of the reasons it feels like a quick film is because it’s so superficial, racing through the plot, introducing characters and plotlines and dismissing them on a whim. Peter Stormare is wasted here, and the film still feels like it’s in the “setting the stage” first act even as it ramps up to the climax. It tries to be an “edgy” take on the material by going for over-the-top violence and gore, but without a satirical story or clever execution as a foundation, the flying viscera just feels ugly and mean.
There are no characters to root for, no exciting action, no cleverness, no wit, no fun, and no point. What there is, is an overwhelming sense of been there, done that. Don’t bother.