This fast and furious sequel to the grisly 1812 Brothers Grimm fairy tale isn’t for the faint of heart. There’s loads of blood, gore and fear and its R rated for good reason as folks are torn limb from limb from body, burned, tortured, hung and shot.
A little boy and his sister are lured to the candy house of a cannibal witch. She is about to throw them into the fire to cook when they outwit and kill her. The original Grimm story is nothing like this reimagined fairy tale that sets up the film.
Originally, Hansel and Gretel’s abusive mother was ordered the death of her children because they were eating all the food. In this version she is a devoted mother who gives her life for them; her disappearance wounds them deeply for life. She gives Hansel and Gretel their life’s purpose.
Fifteen years later, Hansel and Gretel are grown, assassins of witches, armed with major heavy artillery and automatic machine guns, which is fun considering they are in a German forest hundreds of years ago. That kind of nonsensical play is what makes the film rather charming.
They stride the countryside purposefully, saving children from witches’ stew pots, one district at a time.
And children are disappearing from small unprotected woodland villages in unprecedented numbers. Witches are blamed as they are gathering for the rare Blood Moon black arts celebrations. Every celebration needs lots of food and as you well know, witches eat children.
Finally one local mayor finds some sense and hires Hansel & Gretel kill the witch responsible for the kidnappings and retrieve the children before the rest get there.
Hansel & Gretel’s sad history drives them; their parents disappeared just before they stumbled onto the evil witch’s candy-coated lair and they nearly lost their lives. A deep hatred of witches gives them power and genius to build weapons, lay traps and pursue these dangerous beings. It’s like a hunger and they are exceptionally good at it.
Gifted actor Jeremy Renner, who plays Hansel, has the perfect emotional pitch, he’s not really buying it but he’s doing the job well. Gemma Arterton, as Gretel, is all woman warrior and leather, and with hard headed fortitude seems the more male of the two.
Together, they are unbeatable and pose a great threat to the witch population. And with the help of a powerful and unlikely ally, they may be able to tackle the entire coven.
At its heart, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is a 3-D cartoon comic book, brought to life onscreen with a decidedly Twilight look. It lacks the scenery chewing earnestness of Twilight and is just as much fun to watch. And there are plenty of forests and leaping, flying, morphing creatures.
It’s not the best film to come out in this lackluster season on the movie calendar but it’s a fine hour and a half’s distraction. With some dark humor and genre mash-ups to brighten the grisly proceedings, it’s nice to sit back and watch some witches go down. It’s nice and short, too.
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35mm action adventure
Written by Tommy Wirkola, Dante Harper
Directed by Tommy Wirkola
Opens Jan 25
Runtime: 88 minutes
MPAA: Rated R for strong fantasy horror violence and gore, brief sexuality/nudity and language