I needed a quick recap on the Hansel and Gretel story as the movie rolled in. All I remembered was the gingerbread house and the story from there, forgetting the first parts that explain why the red-cheeked little children were in that shady part of the woods in the first place. Apparently, there is no need for the recollection, as the Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters movie writes its own back story for the requisite twist.
I came into the theater as a Jeremy Renner fan with an anxious heart, not wanting to see him in a movie that gave me that distinct feeling of corniness. No hurt locker and no Hawk Eye deserves that burden in my eyes. As the 88 minutes went by, my movie critic instincts proved right on, but it was good 88 minutes of Renner nonetheless. I explain:
Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters starts where the Grimm tale left off. After being left in the dark woods by their father, Hansel and Gretel seek shelter inside a gingerbread house and get themselves unceremoniously captured by the horrendous-looking witch that owns it. The witch locks Hansel in a cage and fattens him up to be poultry in her soup, with Gretel as her tied-up servant. When Hansel is deemed sugar-loaded enough to be baked, the witch opens the lock and in a series of misfortunes for her and awesome luck for the children, the witch gets stabbed twice and fried inside her own oven.
With witch blood in their little hands and no parents to go home to, Hansel and Gretel grow up into two hot, leather-clad, infantry-loaded bounty hunters with witch heads as their purpose. If you also thought there was something lacking in that transition, you are not alone. But we must press on.
The heart of the new tale begins when Hansel and Gretel get commissioned by the mayor of Augsburg to find the witch responsible for 11 missing children as of last count. Their hunt is complicated by an arrogant sheriff and his cohorts, a persistent lady chasing after Hansel, a fan boy, a troll, a coven of witches led by the stunning Famke Janssen, and Hansel’s diabetes. Yeah I got a hoot from that too but I thought it made sense.
As critics must have told you by now, the film suffers from a weak script and inconsistent language. The setting was a merry mix of accents, from Hansel and Gretel’s decidedly American slang to the town folks’ slow, period tilt to the mayor’s English accent. Then there is the amusing insertion of “fuck” and “shit” in witch-hunt period Germany, which I personally liked. The film then mashes its story with outrageous gore and what I thought was a misplaced love line and other confusing relationships.
But with all these imperfections mixed in, the movie was unpretentiously entertaining, which I think was the entire point. It lays the foundation of the believable sibling chemistry of Renner and Arterton. It doesn’t pretend to be a serious movie like the usual fairy tale incarnations of late, but rather unfolds into a lively, gory romp enveloped in dark humor, fortified ammunition and cool fight choreography. Take it for what it is. Horror and action film buffs will find something there to love. The same way this Renner fan did.