A very uninteresting update of classic folk tale
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is one of those flicks that are nearly impossible to grade. It does deliver what the title promises, but nothing more. After breaking into a gingerbread house and whacking the witch who tried to serve them up as dinner (a diet of sweets must get old after a while), the Grimm’s fairy-tale characters grow up to become fearless witch hunters. And that’s pretty much all there is to the movie. Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) suit up in fetish gear and strap on their steampunk arsenal and go hunting ugly women across the landscape of Middle Ages Germany (you can tell it’s Middle Ages ’cause everyone goes to bed at “nightfall”).
Granted, Renner and Arterton (trivia: apparently, Arterton was born with extra fingers, which would have gotten her lovely ass burned as a witch in this time period, or in current-day Arizona and New Mexico) seem to be having fun, and it’s always nice to see Famke Janssen back on screen, although here most of her time is spent hidden beneath CGI make-up in her role as an evil witch. The cinematography is lovely and the action sequences are competent enough, but the trouble is, it’s all empty calories. Our two bounty hunters take on witches. Then they vogue a little before killing more witches. Rinse, lather and repeat.
As written and directed by Tommy Wirkola, who brought us the Nazi-zombie cult nonsense Dead Snow, there’s enough filler here to deliver the minimum feature-film requirement of about 80 minutes (not counting credits), and that’s it. Although there’s a narrative choppiness that suggests that maybe the movie was cut down by the studio to allow an extra showing per day at the multiplexes. Subplots are dragged in and then left unresolved. Maybe it was just a very lazy script that got the green light to ride the tails of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
There’s also a tonal inconsistency to the flick. While the majority of the time it plays as a loopy PG-13, it’s broken up with jarring bursts of graphic mayhem. It does come off kind of cartoony, being CGI and all, but it’s still disconcerting for a movie that otherwise plays like a very polished Syfy Channel offering. And there’s also the tone-deaf humor. A few gags do deliver, but mostly the obvious jokes hit the dirt and lie there gasping for breath. (Will Ferrell served as one of the producers, so maybe that explains it.)
Ultimately, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters isn’t boring. It’s just not interesting.