Everyone knows the story of Hansel and Gretel. Two children who are taken out and abandoned in the woods only to find a house made of sweets where an evil with lives. They are captured and kept until the witch decides to eat them and then the two cleverly kill her and take her riches home to live happily ever after. It’s not a bad story. Pretty much just a classic Grimm fairytale, right?
Not according to Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.
Fairy tale adaptations are all the rage these days with the success of shows like Once Upon a Time and films like Snow White and the Huntsman, the absolutely terrible Mirror Mirror, and Disney’s hit Tangled. These sorts of adaptations are great because we all know the classic story and it’s nice to sometimes see something new.
In Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, the titular characters were indeed abandoned by their parents in the woods. However, instead of finding vast riches in the witche’s home and reuniting with their father at the end of the story they find their way to a village and make a career out of killing witches. Even as children they continue going around hunting witches and rescuing the children they made off with. We don’t see much of this in the film. After the opening sequence showing their abandonment, capture, and eventual escape the rest of their history is told quickly through news posting and an animated woodcarving-style series of images showing them slaughtering witches left and right.
We pick back up with the siblings “many years later.” (At no point does it explain how Hansel, the youngest, ages to his forties while Gretel is still lin her late twenties but hey. Let’s suspend disbelief for now.) They are called to a town whose children are being spirited away by witches under suspicious circumstances. The mayor called them, the sheriff doesn’t like them, and that ginger girl on the right was about to be burned alive for witch craft.
Spoiler: She looks nothing like the evil witches that the siblings hunt. Witches in this world – dark ones anyway – are grotesque creatures who are corrupted by the dark arts. Except apparently ‘grand dark witches’ who can look like you or me so. You know. Watch out for pretty women lurking about. They could turn into witches and make you shoot yourself or someone you love. Which, apparently, they like to do.
Also, they like drawing and quartering people with the help of trees. Blech.
They meet up with the adorable Thomas Mann whose character name I don’t even remember. It doesn’t matter. He’s adorable. He idolizes them and wants to be a witch hunter himself someday and with the way things are going in his town he might just get his chance.
Basically – light spoilers – the whole issue at hand is that all the dark witches in the land are coming together on a special high holy day for their kind and it spells trouble for pretty much everyone. While attempting to combat this evil, Hansel find himself a love interest and the two of them start to learn more about their past, their parents, the truth about their abandonment, and some secrets they never knew about themselves.
All while treating us to a blend of dry comedic moments and occasional moments of gratuitous violence and death. (No, seriously, a troll just pulverizes some people.)
People who liked the Brothers Grimm – and why you would is beyond me – might be a bit disappointed. This film takes a much darker turn than that film did though there are some stylistic similarities. It is, however, quite a lot of fun for an action film trying a bit too hard to strike a balance between action and comedy. It had some pretty cute moments and as a whole it’s a pretty decent story.
But it’s nothing to really write home about. It has a hard time deciding just how gory it wants to be and I think in that regard it has a hard time finding an audience. There’s some cute moments of a witch’s relationship with her troll and Thomas Mann’s character is obviously supposed to be our relate-able self-insert character who provides a little bit of comic relief along the way. Indivudlaly, they are cute little editions but they also sort of appeal to a younger demographic. Meanwhile,
bitches witches are actually pulling people’s limbs apart and forcing children to shot their mothers through walls with waaaaay over powered shotguns.
Which actually reminds me. Thomas Mann’s character at one point asks a pretty great question: “Where did you guys get your guns?” Clearly from the Van Helsing (2004) set.
And while I appreciated the fact that we now have one of our first – if not our first – awesome diabetic action hero in Hansel (apparently being forced to eat too much candy did a number on him, forcing him to take regular shots) they don’t really explain the condition much and it doesn’t really play much of a plot point. If you’re trying to give your hero a weakness you usually use it. But the whole thing only really becomes an issue once and even then it’s not actually that big of a deal. It is resolved very quickly.
All in all, I enjoyed it. The 3D effects if you go see it in IMAX 3D were pretty well done and they aren’t too distracting. The story is pretty solid, the acting is good, and it’s really just a nice movie to check out on the weekend if you’ve got nothing else to do.
Final Score: B-