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Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jul 27, 2023

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters


Starring Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, Thomas Mann, Peter Stormare, Pihla Viitala, Derek Mears, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Joanna Kulig, Bjørn Sundquist, Rainer Bock, Thomas Scharff, Kathrin Kühnel, Cedric Eich, Alea Sophia Boudodimos and the voice of Robin Atkin Downes.

Screenplay by Tommy Wirkola and Dante Harper.

Directed by Tommy Wirkola.

Distributed by Paramount Pictures. 88 minutes. Rated R.

If you take a children's story and make it too adult for its original target audience, who is going to want to watch it?

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is much too violent (and a little too sexual) for the kids who care about the classic story. At the same time, the whole basic plot idea - orphaned kids who are trapped by a witch in a candy house - is a little too simplistic and ridiculous for adults to take at all seriously.

However, in recent years since the surprise popularity of The Lord of the Rings, adult takes on classic children's tales have become standard operating procedure for Hollywood. There have been a few Snow White retellings. Tim Burton re-imagined a young adult Alice in Wonderland. A newfangled "Jack and the Beanstalk" (aggressively rechristened Jack the Giant Killer) recently slipped in and out of theaters. So did Little Red Riding Hood and Oz: The Great and Powerful. None of them have been big hits (though Snow White and the Huntsman did fairly well), but Hollywood isn't ready to give up on the genre yet.

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters should kill the whole movement, but it probably won't. It certainly was a box-office disappointment and a critical whipping boy, but apparently it is still being set up for a sequel.

Truth is, other than character names, a candy house and witches, Witch Hunters has very little in common with the original fairy tale "Hansel and Gretel." (These silly, dated German names sound even more ridiculous being used by these actors who speak with a 21st century American patois... yes, even the British actress Arterton.)

And, frankly, Hansel and Gretel's double-entendre-laced banter seems a little creepy for characters who are supposed to be brother and sister.

The actual fairytale is dispatched here in a mostly dialogue free six-and-a-half minute prologue. Flash forward 20 years to find the new kick-ass Hansel & Gretel, who seem to have become the go-to witch bounty hunters in their medieval German village. (Which itself looks more like a theme park village than a real German burg would have looked at that time.)

H&G:WH adds lots of anachronistic weaponry to keep the mayhem going and the blood flowing. These hunters use Gatling guns, sawed off shotguns and what appears to be a multi-firing crossbow. None of which were available back when this story is supposedly taking place. Several of which still aren't available, I believe. (And why all these guns, anyway? It seems until the very end that the witches are able to block gunfire.)

In the meantime, the witches scurry around with awkward CGI which is sadly reminiscent of the 2004 box office flop Van Helsing. There is no real story to H&G:WH, it's essentially just like watching a video game that is being played by someone else.

The poster for the movie has a tag line reads "Classic tale. New Twist." Sadly, the movie is wrong on both counts.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2013 All rights reserved. Posted: May 1, 2013.

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