Sometimes you just need to check your brains at the door, along with all logic and common sense, and just enjoy the ride of an obviously bad movie. Let’s be honest, with a title like Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, I’m fairly certain nobody was ready for an award-winning adventure. That said, there are movies you are simply meant to enjoy. They aren’t created to change the world, just to let you escape that world for 90 minutes or so.
As a child, everyone read the story of Hansel and Gretel and their epic battle against the witch who was trying to eat them. However, if you’re that far removed from childhood or you lived under a rock, our movie begins with a recap of events that created the witch hunters known as Hansel and Gretel. We see a mother telling a father to take the children into the woods. Now, as a child, this concept was scary but here, all the atmospheric trappings are there to set the tone. We’re clearly in a fairytale but the lights have been dimmed and the number of things going bump in the night has been ramped up ten-fold. The ancient tale is quickly told as the children defeat the witch. Our opening credits roll and immediately I have visions of a Monty Python cartoon. We see how Hansel and Gretel took their experience with the witch and used it to mold into what we would call bounty hunters today. Now, we flash forward many years later and those two children are now grown and witch hunters for hire. They come upon a village and save a young woman from being falsely burned as a witch. The whole scene is reminiscent of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It’s clear from the start that this movie is not going to take itself seriously. Therefore, you the moviegoer shouldn’t either. Otherwise, your experience will be a disappointing one.
Hansel is played by Jeremy Renner, fresh from last year’s The Avengers and The Bourne Legacy. I don’t think Renner is necessarily leading man material but he works well enough where he shares screen time. Gretel is played by the lovely Gemma Arterton, best known for the Clash of the Titans remake and Quantum of Solace. Both of them are sporting leather outfits not quite common for the time period. Then again, neither are some of their weapons of choice, which include a Gatling gun. One of the funniest anachronistic scenes is where Hansel reveals he ate too much candy as a child (thanks to the witch) and now has to take shots to survive. Yes, Hansel is now diabetic. And yes, I know just how ridiculous that sounds. But again, enjoy the fun and insanity. Famke Janssen (Taken and X-Men) is Muriel, the head witch in charge. She’s been kidnapping village children with the help of a troll in order to take advantage of a rare blood moon. It turns out there’s a recipe for making witches invulnerable to fire and our two witch hunters play a key role in its success. Now, Famke turns in an adequate performance, which goes hand in hand considering she’s revealed she took the role to pay her mortgage. It turns out those Hollywood stars have bills to pay like the rest of us. And yes, that is Derek Mears (Friday The 13th) we see in the credits as Edward the troll. However, it isn’t his voice and the body is all CGI, so clearly he was involved only to help Jeremy and Gemma during the filming.
The gore is plentiful. Sure, it’s CGI but mixed in with some old school “real blood”, it all works. The one-liners are packed into the 88 minute running time. There’s plenty of colorful anachronistic modern-day language and some surprisingly adult situations. Were we really surprised that young Ben, upon saving the life of Gretel, was tempted to sneak a peek while cleaning the ample bosom of Gretel? No, we don’t see anything and it was all innocent, but it is an example that this isn’t our sweet fairy tale characters we grew up reading. Then again, most fairy tales are overly dark in tone when you really think about. After all, Hansel and Gretel were tricked into the candy house and had to murder their kidnapper to stay alive.
I am surprised that some reviewers are blasting this movie for not taking itself more seriously. Really? Our main characters are Hansel and Gretel. I went in with lower expectations and was pleasantly surprised. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters appears on track for making its money back and then some. I doubt we’ll see a sequel but then again, the door was wide open for more fun. While I can’t recommend paying full ticket price, it’s certainly worth checking out at the dollar theater or on DVD and Blu-Ray when it arrives a few months from now. Just remember, have fun with it and enjoy the escape from reality. That’s what these movies are supposed to be all about.