CATEGORIES Movie NewsWell... It's here. After years of delays (production was completed in early 2011), which were blamed on everything from MGM's long-standing financial trouble to a late-in-the-game 3D conversion, "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters" is finally upon us. Starring Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton as the grown-up versions of the classic fairytale characters, who have dedicated their lives to ridding the world of broomstick-riding witches, the movie attempts to mix the unstable genres of action, horror and comedy (kind of like "The Mummy" movies, except with considerably more exploding heads).
So, what of "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters?" Is it much ado about nothing? A future cult classic that will be instantly misdiagnosed? Or is this seriously one of the worst things ever forged by the cinematic gods? Read on to find out. And, as Hansel advises in the movie, stay far, far away from the candy.
PRO: It's Got an Okay Title Sequence The title sequence is pretty...okay. It's illustrated and there's a lot of zooming around because, you know, it's in 3D, and you need to justify that extra cost. (It's also, amazingly, being released in IMAX 3D, which goes to show you how many screens are available in January.) Also, during the credit sequence, you get to see the words "Produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay," which will immediately bring to mind the films that Ferrell and McKay have made together -- "Step Brothers," "Anchorman," "Talladega Nights" and "The Other Guys." Thinking of these movies will probably give you a moment of peace, or maybe even cause a smile to slide across your face, which is more than I can say about anything that's actually in "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters."
CON: Pretty Much the Whole Movie Where to begin? The movie is a horrible, horrible-looking mishmash, attempting to reconcile storybook mythology with more modern smart-asser-y (in ye' olden times did people really use the F-word so much?) and a smattering of red-paint-against-a-white-wall violence. At the center of the movie are a pair of lead performances so devoid of actual personality and charisma that the rest of the film seems to warp around them, like a black hole threatening to gobble up galaxies. It's also painfully unimaginative, both in terms of the fairy-tale creatures, which look like a combination of children's doodles, S&M fantasies and the kind of thing that wouldn't win a Halloween costume contest, and the overall visual palette. The "locations" for the movie seem to consist of the same 20 feet of vaguely European woods, shot endlessly from a variety of angles (but also in faux "Bourne" shaky cam). It's kind of like when they filmed the first few seasons of "The X-Files" in British Columbia and all of Mulder and Scully's cases oddly took place in the Pacific Northwest.
CON: Some Characterization Would Have Been Nice What's so funny about "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters," besides the fact that it exists at all, is that so much is made about the hidden past of the two lead characters (the big reveal being not at all surprising), without any actual character traits having been prescribed to them. Virtually the only thing Hansel has going for him is that he gets to make love to a comely village lass. Oh, and that he's a diabetic. Get it? Because he ate so much of the candy house. It is the lamest action movie character trait ever. He literally has to stop a big action sequence so that he can give himself an insulin injection. It's like if John McClane had asthma and right before the finale said, "Hold on Hans Gruber, I need to take a hit from my inhaler."
PRO: Peter Stormare Hangs Around For A While, Then Gets Smushed Peter Stormare, noted Swedish weirdo, shows up as the town's sheriff. First he tries to kill the girl Hansel gets with, then he spends the middle part of the movie scheming while wearing whatever the nose equivalent of an eye patch is, and finally he gets stepped on by some kind of goblin or troll. God bless you, Peter Stormare!
CON: It's 88 Minutes of My Life I Will Never Get Back Never, ever.
PRO: Zoe Bell Was Apparently In It "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters" marks the second time in two months that Zoe Bell, the talented stunt woman and actress from "Lost" and Quentin Tarantino's "Grindhouse" half "Death Proof," appears in such an obscured form that you can barely make out that it's her. In Tarantino's "Django Unchained," she played the mysterious slaver with the red bandana and the fearsome axe. Here she's credited as "Tall Witch." When will people give her another meaty performance like in "Death Proof?" Hell, she was even great in that Ed Brubaker web series.
CON: It Could Have Used a Few More Things The movie takes a patently anachronistic approach to almost everything -- the aforementioned f-bombs, the fact that Gretel seems to be rocking an old timey shotgun -- and in that spirit, I thought I would just start listing things that would make "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters" more enjoyable: dinosaurs, UFOs, Abraham Lincoln, a giant mechanical spider, something that resembles a time machine but might be even more dangerous, a Danny McBride cameo, maybe a flying bat monster, a sequence scored to the Soft Cell song "Memorabilia," an animated interlude and one or all of the cast members from television series "Friday Night Lights."