Review: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters / Director: Tommy Wirkola / Screenplay: Tommy Wirkola / Starring: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Jannsen / Released: June 24th
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is the life and soul of the party and it’s had a couple of drinkies before it arrived. If you’re in a good mood, then the life and soul of the party is a fun thing to be around. If you’re not, then it’s going to get on your nerves pretty quickly.
The simple premise is that, following their ordeal in the witch’s candy house, the titular siblings grow up to be leather-clad kickass witch hunters with steampunk weapons and a bad attitude. This is essentially a Wild West bounty hunter movie transposed to a fantasy setting in the guise of comedy horror. Being set in some non-specific fantastical period and location also means no one has to worry very much about accents. Actually, this being the Brothers Grimm, you’d have thought some kind of European accent would be a given, but Jeremy Renner either can’t do one or couldn’t be bothered, so he sticks with the transatlantic one he was no doubt born with. But have no fear, Gemma Arterton (Kate Beckinsale being presumably too old and/or expensive to do her trademark role nowadays) puts on an American accent just so Renner doesn’t look completely ridiculous. We assume that’s the reason as it is otherwise utterly inexplicable. But if it seems stupid then that’s absolutely fine because Hansel & Gretel is, essentially, a stupid movie; but not necessarily in a bad way.
This is a film with its tongue stuck firmly in its cheek and if writer/director Tommy Wirkola had made any attempt at seriousness then, with a premise like that, we’d just have a po-faced mess. As it is, it’s all just a lot of fun as long as you’re prepared to leave your brain firmly in neutral. Why does the chief witch occasionally lose the witchy make-up and turn into Famke Jannsen? Well, duh! Because she’s Famke Jannsen. Seriously, don’t think about it. Hansel & Gretel just wants you to have fun; it doesn’t want you thinking. If you did then you’d probably remember that all this has largely been done before in Van Helsing (2004). On the other hand, this is actually far more enjoyable than that was. There are even a few original touches such as Hansel’s enforced childhood sugar diet rendering him diabetic or the witches gathering looking like a Clive Barker cosplay party.
Actually, this reviewer didn’t think he was going to like Hansel & Gretel much, but by the time he was half way through he’d surrendered to its brainless overbearing jollity. He must have been in a better mood than he thought he was as he now fully accepts that fairy tale characters repeatedly saying “fuck” is big and it is clever. What’s more, at 88 minutes, it’s exactly the same length as all those Hammer movies. Now that’s how not to outstay your reluctant welcome.
Extras: The Witching Hours