HST… Film Review: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

Hansel&GretelHeaderLauren:  Early on, the main storyline is introduced by the crudely drawn faces of missing children canvassing milk bottles decorating the background of a impromptu witch trial.  If that little detail is not even slightly hilarious to you, then Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is not for you.  Granted the title probably clued you in long ago.

Everyone knows the Brothers Grimm fairy tale about two siblings who leave a candy house victorious over the witch who had hoped to serve them for dinner, but what they didn’t record is what happened past the “happily ever after.”  Turns out for Hansel and Gretel, happiness means burning, bleeding, shooting, dicing, decapitating, and doing whatever else it takes to gruesomely rid the lands of wicked women long after that late night jaunt into the depths of the woods.  It’s a ridiculous premise building on a classic story, and the 3D action genre is all the better for it.

Zac: The film works wonderfully and it hits every note it is going for along the way.  The tone of the film is fun and light, but I was impressed at how effectively unsettling it was on more than one occasion.  The comedy is almost just as effective as the horror, and it does so by sprinkling it throughout instead of jamming it down your throat.  Lots of good one liners and a knowing cast make the silliness of it all go over with ease, and the film deserves credit for being able to balance the action, humor, horror and even some heartfelt pathos.

Lauren: Not only that, but I felt that Hansel & Gretel made the wise choice of going with the R rating.  I actually thought it could have played up the blood and guts even more, but you will be surprised by how satisfying the majority of the kills are.  And sometimes deserving of an unexpected burst of laughter as well, from the blood decorating the sets to the dangers of broom flying through forests (not surprisingly similar to the dangers of speeder bikes).

Because of the tone and goal of the film, a lot of the downsides can be forgiven with little persuasion, even one of the bigger naggings about how blind the characters are to a major reveal later.  The story is predictable on all levels from a viewer standpoint, but I couldn’t care less because of the fun I was having just enjoying the ride.  However, I may have a little trouble looking past the main witch designs, who more often than not looked like their faces were covered in dried out, cracking toothpaste.  With that said, I was relieved that make-up was used more often than CGI work when it came to these ladies, especially considering the trailer had me believing that we were going to be forced to watch numerous scenes with witches reminiscent of Dracula’s morphing brides in Van Helsing.  This relief didn’t erase the disappointment in their design completely, but it did make their deaths all the more satisfying when those ugly faces were shattered into a bloody mess.

Oh, and Edward.  I might not be able to forgive Edward.

Zac: You are so picky about your character design lately. And I like Edward!

I don’t know what major reveal you are referring to late in the film, nothing nagged at me, but even while predictable the film naturally moves forward without ever really forcing its hand.  In fact, if the movie were a bit longer and gave a bit more character development to some of these relationships we would be talking about this film possibly entering near greatness.  Everything makes sense going forward and the film knowingly acknowledges every time you want to say, “Really?”

The cast is a blast from near top to bottom, and I love that Jeremy Renner doesn’t even try to use an accent.  Where does this movie take place by the way?  Gemma Arterton continues to do good work in movies that will probably be underseen, and Peter Stormare is great as Peter Stormare.  Famke Janssen steals the spotlight, though, as the slightly over the top villain Muriel.  Above all, she seems to know exactly what kind of movie she is in.  Pihla Viitala is also a nice little addition to the cast as Mina, it’s just a shame they didn’t build out her character and arc a bit better.

Lauren:  Not only that, but Arterton had to lose her British accent to match Renner’s lack thereof.  This threw me a bit at first since everyone knows that all non-Americans are English in film, but in the end even this became a perfect choice.  It just fit with Renner’s angry muscle, and with Gretel’s actor being the one to appease Hansel by having Arterton change.  Their sibling dynamic was a fun thing to watch in the scenes between the two we have, making what character building provided worth the time it was giving, though I too would definitely appreciate more.

This may fit perfectly with the rest of Arterton’s underappreciated action films (Clash of the Titans and Prince of Persia) in the end, but it really is just a loss for those unwilling to simply enjoy the fun to be had.  Seriously, there’s a good chance you’ll be surprised by this one.

Lauren and Zac’s Final Grade: B

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