Dead Snow director Tommy Wirkola teams up with producers Adam McKay and Will Ferrell to bring us his twist on a classic fairy-tale. Will it fare better than the last mythical creatures hunting movie starring America’s 16th President?
Hansel and Gretel are just small children when their father abandons them unexpectedly in a scary forest…alone…at night. Searching for salvation the pair happen upon a strange cottage that appears to be made of candy. Venturing closer they are soon captured and force-fed sweets as an evil witch attempts to fatten them up and eat them. After miraculously escaping this fate and leaving the witch to burn in her own oven the pair became folk-heroes and soon make themselves widely known as fearless and fearsome witch-hunters. And so our tale begins with Hansel and Gretel called to a small German town to help the townsfolk find their lost children.
The Bourne Legacy and The Hurt Locker star Jeremy Renner is Hansel, older brother and the muscle of the two. Gemma Arterton is Gretel, the more methodical of the two but just as adept at fighting as her brother. Renner plays Hansel as a hard-headed, practical, no-nonsense individual. It’s a dour performance and he never seems quite at ease with the tongue-in-cheek nature of the film. Arterton on the other-hand revels in her medieval Lara Croft role, all sass, swagger and kick-ass. Pihla Viitala is fine as the love interest and mysterious stranger Mina. Thomas Mann does his best Jay Baruchel impression as the nerdy fan-boy turned hero. Meanwhile the rest of the cast are all in full scenery-chewing mode, particularly Famke Janssen and Peter Stormare as evil witch Muriel and the Sheriff respectively. Janssen’s Muriel is not as memorable as her Xenia Onatopp and there is more than a hint of X3 era Jean Grey but she plays her part well in the overall scheme of things.
The problems inherent in the film are not with the acting, but rather in the script, direction and visual effects. The script’s main focus seems to be on inserting unnecessary swearwords in lieu of plot or character development. As for the visuals, in a yearn to make the 3D “work” the film resorts to good old-fashioned flinging everything at the screen mode. Blood, guts, arrows, bullets, trees, you name it all fly out and into the audience. At least they would if the 3D wasn’t yet another example of poor post-conversion. The basic premise of the film is a flimsy take on a classic fairytale that is primed for a knowing jokey, almost satirical film. What we get however is a straight up farce, a stupid, loud, bombastic mess of a film. Which is perfectly fine when handled correctly. Gratuitous gore, swearing and nudity is not handling it correctly. Yes that can add some humour but it cheapens the overall effect. Make-up is good, the costume design is top-notch, but unfortunately the soundtrack is loud and well just loud. the least said about the oddly futuristic weaponry the better, although one of the best comedy set-pieces does involve one of these.
An unintentionally funny film that reminds you just how good films like Army of Darkness or Evil Dead 2 were. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is best enjoyed by going into the film expecting it to be rubbish and then somehow enjoying yourself despite it all.