'Hansel & Gretel': No happily ever after, or during
05:00 AM, Jan 25, 2013
No longer lost in the woods, Hansel and Gretel are all grown up.
And, as a result of the incident that put them on the fairytale map in the first place, they’ve taken up pest control of the witch-extermination variety.
Your kids are whisked away in the night? Who you gonna call? The stars of Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (* out of four; rated R; opening Friday nationwide).
If any of this sounds like fun, rest assured it’s anything but.
Perhaps there was a germ of a clever idea in the pitch meeting where this convoluted hybrid was born. But what’s on screen is a foul-mouthed, gory, R-rated fantasy/action/comedy/horror/dysfunctional-family saga. Are there any film categories left out here?
This genre stew throws in so many ingredients including sundry body parts that are cut off and go flying, and heads that explode that the result is a tasteless mash-up that’s hard to stomach.
The plot is a disjointed, tedious and frenetic mess, and the dialog tries to be cheeky, with the titular characters anachronistically dropping f-bombs. But their quips are never remotely funny.
The 3-D special effects are annoyingly in-your-face, devoid of any real purpose beyond startling the viewer. Recoiling may be the only reaction the film induces.
The story spins off the Brothers Grimm classic, with the young siblings fending off a woods-dwelling evil witch in a cottage made of candy. They sample the sweet facade, she attacks them, they throw her in the fire. This part is familiar enough. Then flash-forward to Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) as leather-clad, tough-talking adults. Having liquidated one nasty hag, they’ve become witch hunters for a living. As vigilantes, they’re armed with enough pistols, shotguns, grenades and even a semi-automatic crossbow to outfit a battalion.
The era in which all this occurs is murky. Some details have a medieval vibe, yet our heroes have an arsenal of far more modern weaponry and their dialogue is strictly of the unimaginative 21st-century variety.
Parents, don’t make the mistake of taking the kids to this blood-spattered revenge-fest.
In the process of hunting down their cackling prey, they learn about the mysterious disappearance of their parents. They also become targets for one of the most evil witches of all (Famke Janssen, in terrible monster make-up).
There are only two moments that are remotely clever: As the camera pans across a village at the edge of the woods, glass bottles of milk have woodcut depictions of missing children emblazoned on their labels. The other is the implication that Hansel is a diabetic, based on his over-the-top consumption of sweets.
It’s hard to imagine just what inspired a talented Oscar nominee like Renner to take on such a thankless part. Let’s hope he at least took home a hefty paycheck.
Most of the film is spent with Hansel and Gretel fending off those who are against them, including a local mayor (Peter Stormare). But the story is not the film’s strong suit, nor are the action sequences, performances or special effects. But at least it puts forth a sound message: Kids, avoid overdoing it on sweets especially candy that doubles as drywall.