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Review – Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters

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It’s obvious that Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters aims to be nothing more than a guilty pleasure, filled with cheesy one-liners and over-the-top action sequences, which would’ve been fine, if the movie was actually pleasurable. Sadly, this new take on the classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale is so uninspired and tedious that it manages to feel longer than The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, in spite of running 90 minutes shorter. There is absolutely nothing original or exciting in this movie — it’s as formulaic as it gets.

The only good thing about Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is its mildly fascinating premise. The story follows the titular brother-and-sister duo (played by Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton) who after surviving their first encounter with a witch, turn into professional witch hunters. So, they travel from town to town with an arsenal full of various weapons — from shotguns to crossbows — and mercilessly slaughter every witch they can find. It’s basically a sequel to the original Brothers Grimm tale, but with more gore, sex, and foul language to make it seem more mature. If the screenplay was at least a little clever, this would’ve been a decent movie, but sadly, the writing is so bad that even Jeremy Renner fails to make it fun (or even half-fun for that matter).

The main issue with the screenplay, which was penned by the film’s director Tommy Wirkola, is that it’s incredibly uninspired. It hits every single cliché in the book and continuously relies on the same tricks. For instance, it’s amusing to hear Hansel and Gretel curse for the first time in the movie, but the amusement doesn’t last because the shtick gets old very quickly. Unfortunately, Wirkola didn’t seem to think so because his script tends to play up curse words for humour almost every other scene. The witches are funny too, thanks to some of the cheesiest dialogue I’ve heard in a long time. It’s so embarrassingly bad that it makes you wonder how those actresses managed to deliver their lines with straight faces.

As for the characters, most of them are walking clichés with little to no personality. Hansel is probably the only character that has something going for him, thanks to Renner’s unapologetically playful performance — he is John McClane and Han Solo wrapped in one (but with terrible one-liners). Gretel on the other hand isn’t nearly as interesting, but that’s because of how she was written — not due to Arterton’s performance, who tries her best to make it work. The problem with Gretel is that she quickly devolves into a damsel in distress, despite holding the promise of being more, which makes her a much weaker character than Hansel — and far less appealing too. As for the other characters, there isn’t much to say about them aside from the fact that they’re all incredibly boring due to being one-dimensional plot devices that spew out one cliché after another.

The action sequences are just as insipid as the writing and the characters, if not even more so. First and foremost, they’re incredibly repetitive. In nearly each one of them, Hansel and Gretel get to face a witch, but due to poor aiming skills (or some other reason), they always allow the witch to escape, which then results in a long and boring chase through the woods to catch her. This type of sequence plays out at least three times in the movie. What’s worse is that they all lack any sort of suspense, which makes them feel overly-lengthy. If Wirkola was aiming for sheer spectacle, he should’ve come up with more inventive stunts for the characters to pull off, but instead, all they do is dodge, shoot, run, and repeat. There is no absolutely creativity in those sequences, which makes them a chore to sit through.

So, if you’re looking for a fun, dumb movie, then look elsewhere — because all you’ll get here is a lot of dumb.

Rating: D-

By: Taras Trofimov