Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is absurd … but entertaining
‘Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters’ may be the stupidest idea ever for a movie … but it actually works!
Pop quiz. Who knows what the number one movie in Russia was for the weekend of January 18? No, not Django Unchained. That was number two. The number one movie in Russia was … Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters! How the heck did that happen? That’s almost as surprising as finding out that Will Ferrell and Adam McKay were producers on the film. I guess it’s also kind of surprising that Jeremy Renner is in the movie. I mean, I remember when Renner was the next big “serious” actor after his overnight success in The Hurt Locker which he followed up with The Town. A look at his resumé, though, shows an interesting pre-Hurt Locker career: guest shots on Angel, Time of Your Life, and CSI:, the starring role in Dahmer, and an uncredited appearance in a Pink music video! Then Marvel came calling, followed by Universal (to replace Matt Damon in the Bourne movies), and now this … a movie that has actually been sitting on the shelf for about a year.
Now before you assume that means the movie is garbage, it must be noted that the film was another of those MGM productions that were trapped in the studio’s bankruptcy limbo with Skyfall, Red Dawn and The Cabin in the Woods. Of course, it could be argued that the fact that the movie opened in Russia (!) before it did in the US, and had a press screening the night before opening day (and in some places hosting midnight showings, it was only four hours before opening), and the fact that the film runs a surprisingly short 88 minutes, that certainly should peg this one as a pure stinker.
And you would be wrong. I won’t ever admit that Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is a great movie, but I will say it was more entertaining than anyone ever expected it to be. I think what sold the movie for me was that it really did not take itself seriously. When the first post-titles shot is glass milk bottles with pieces of paper tied to them with missing children announcements, you kind of let your guard down and realize that this is all meant to be pure entertainment. The story, of course, builds off of the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale — shown in flashback — and the adult Hansel and Gretel now travel across the land to destroy all of the evil witches (and yes, apparently the Wiccan community is very upset about the portrayal of witches in the film). The duo are hired to rid a town of its own evil, but they start to discover a pattern to the disappearance of children and how they relate to the upcoming “blood moon.” As the pieces fall together, one more secret is revealed to Hansel and Gretel … and it’s a big one.
One thing I really liked about the movie was that it had no intention of answering any questions in regards to the absurdities contained within the story. In fact, there is a character in the film, a Hansel and Gretel groupie (he even has a scrapbook full of press clippings!), who asks them all the questions the audience already has in the backs of their heads … and Hansel quickly brushes them off because there really is no explanation, so just accept that they have machine guns and double crossbows and grenades and fancy bullets that break apart into a kind of silver buckshot and let them get on with taking down the witches.
And kill witches they do, in gloriously gory fashion. Yes, there are a lot of exploding heads in this movie, in addition to a draw-and-quartering (human) and a troll stomping (also human) that makes a big splash (pun intended). And wait till you see the climactic witch convention! There really are no two witches alike — except for the conjoined twins — and the makeup and SPFX crew really outdid themselves. The movie definitely lives up to its R rating (there is some brief nudity as well, and a some adult language that seems out of place in this indeterminate time period … but so are machine guns!).
Someone commented on our free passes giveaway post that this was the stupidest idea for a movie ever, and they’re probably right. But, even the stupidest movies can turn out to be wildly entertaining and Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters turned out to be just that. I have to also give a tip of my hat to the director, Tommy Wirkola, for really understanding how to use 3D. He never missed an opportunity to have something flying off the screen or pointing an inch away from your nose. That is my kind of 3D (and for a conversion, it looked pretty spectacular). If you’re looking to have some fun at the movies, then I would say this one delivers more than it should have. Of course, your entertainment mileage may vary.