'Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters' (2013) Movie Review

Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton in Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters
Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton in Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters
Photo: Paramount Pictures

I don't have to tell you Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is bad. You already know that. It was filmed back in March of 2011 and originally set to hit theaters a year later. It was then delayed almost a full year and it's January 2013 placement on the release schedule is reason enough as to why. However, a diamond is occasionally found in the rough and every film must be given a chance. Now, it's had its chance and the results weren't good.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters
Grade: D

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters"Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters" is a Paramount Pictures release, directed by Tommy Wirkola and is rated R for strong fantasy horror violence and gore, brief sexuality/nudity and language. The running time is .

The cast includes Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, Peter Stormare, Derek Mears, Thomas Mann and Rainer Bock.

Star Jeremy Renner shot Hansel and Gretel before making The Avengers and The Bourne Legacy, and while the film's release date may be trying to now take advantage of the Oscar nominee's fanboy status, it doesn't take a forensic scientist to see through the smoke and mirrors.

Based on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel uses the short story of two orphans drawn to a cottage made of candy in the forest and subsequently imprisoned and force-fed candy by an evil witch, and turns their ability to overcome and burn said witch into a story of supernatural, sibling bounty hunters.

The narrative is far from unique as Hansel (Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) are called to a small village where several children have already been abducted and, obviously, witches are the suspects. As is always the case, one evil witch (Famke Janssen) needs a brood of children so she can carry out her "grand, witch plan" that will make her and her friends immune to fire, a favorite weapon of our titular heroes against their nemeses.

Considering a witch can be killed a myriad of ways, a fact that is made known to us explicitly in the film, I'm not sure why they are so keen on getting just fire off the list, but more power to them. Maybe wear neck collars made of iron as well, or perhaps stop being a bunch of meanies. Either option is sure to help.

Of course, there is a larger mystery at the film's core, but if you aren't catching on to that within the first ten minutes then perhaps you'll find this film mildly enjoyable. As for me, to learn it was only 88 minutes long came as a shock as I would have bet it wasn't any shorter than 100, and the cheap faux-IMAX 3-D glasses didn't make the duration of the film any more enjoyable.

Given the option now, there's no chance Renner or Arterton agree to make this film. How relatively unknown writer/director Tommy Wirkola (Dead Snow) managed to score the duo in the first place is a mystery to me. Perhaps it's because he pitched the film as a comedy instead of a straight-forward genre feature, because a few doinks, bonks and car horns would have made a lot more sense over the all-too-serious nature of the film as is.

Not once do Hansel or Gretel question the fact these witches they're battling are essentially black belt martial artists, but it sure looks funny watching them throw a few elbows and high knees. Then there's the moment Hansel does a somersault and crashes through a door only to be immediately smacked in the face with a shovel. If there was ever a moment deserving a cartoonish BONK! this was it. Funnier still is the plot-line where Hansel is diabetic due to all the candy the witch fed him when he was younger, which leads to the moment he goes into shock in the middle of stringing a witch up. I've seen action sequences drag out before, but this was too much. Then again, had it been a comedy it would have worked a whole lot better.

I even got a laugh following the opening credits as the theme music sounded a lot like Hans Zimmer's score for the Sherlock Holmes movies only to read Zimmer served as executive music producer. Atli Örvarsson, however, is credited with the score. I presume Zimmer download a copy of the Sherlock to Örvarsson's iPod and said, "Do that," and called it good. In fact, I feel as if this entire movie was put together in the same way.

Hansel and Gretel could have been a gory, laugh riot, had some creative screenwriting taken place. However, a focus on aerial martial arts and heavy-duty medieval weaponry turns this into a shoddy Underworld knock-off, and I think detractors of the Underworld franchise would even call that comparison "high praise." (I actually enjoy the Underworld films I should note.)

From a plot that randomly casts our characters off to different locations just so they can stumble upon necessary clues to keep the story flowing, to action sequences that feel derivative of nearly every second rate action movie you've seen before, Hansel & Gretel would have been a direct-to-video release had it not been for the 3-D and the new-found Jeremy Renner name-recognition. Fortunately for both Renner and Arterton, it won't be around long enough to bruise their careers too much.


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  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Corbin/ Corbin

    I bet that after Jack the Giant Slayer gets released, one of these movie studios makes
    Cinderella: Zombie Decapitator or something like that, given that they don't tank. But anyways, the fact that this film takes itself deadly serious doesn't surprise me. It's just like what happened with Vampire Hunter last year. But, Brad enjoyed that one, and this one looks like a candidate for worst of the year. Any guesses as to whether Jack the Giant Slayer takes itself far to seriously?

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/maja/ maja

    Am loving all these January reviews...sure, the movies are awful (all of them so far!) but the reviews for these January films are very entertaining.

  • http://cineenuruguay.blogspot.com/ Driver

    I thought it had some cool ideas but everything was all over the place. It didnt knew if it was a comedy or an action film, and it ended being a complete disaster.

    A good thing I could add is that, all the action scenes involved Renner running after a witch on a broom, and that was pretty funny actually...

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      Yeah, why wasn't it played for laughs? The witches running around was hilarious.

  • adu

    What a miserable movie-month this is. At least Warm Bodies & Side Effects look to be decent next month.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/duckyguy/ duckyguy

      I saw Warm Bodies last month. It is even worse than what Brad described Hansel & Gretel as. The girl I saw it with called it the worst movie she has seen in the past 5 years. I told her she didn't see Apparition, so it was only my second worst.

      • http://kaisaccofilm.tumblr.com/ Kai Sacco

        If she thought "Warm Bodies" was one of the worst movies she's seen in the past five years, then she needs to watch more movies. Honestly, it's not a bad film. It works for what it is and it's a nice deviation from your normal zombie or vampire chick-flicks.

      • http://www.twitter.com/GregDinskisk GregDinskisk

        I've heard a lot of positive buzz about Warm Bodies... Several of my friends saw it, found it to be very cute and an interesting take on the zombie movie... Oh well!!

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Corbin/ Corbin

        I've also heard a lot of good things about this movie. Looking forward to seeing it.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Corbin/ Corbin

    Great review for a January movie. But, enough with the crap. Can't wait until February.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/duckyguy/ duckyguy

    I am a glutton for punishment, so I am seeing this tonight. Let's see if it can unseed Texas Chainsaw 3D as the worst movie I have seen in 2013 so far.

  • Foggy

    You need to check out Movie 43 Brad!

    If you think this is bad then wait until you see Hugh Jackman hits a baby with a pair of testicles growing out of his neck. (And that's not even the most absurd and nauseating part of it all.)

    • Baby Face

      Uh, How about a Spoiler Alert!?! Sheesh. Now you've ruined the movie for me!

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/chewbaca38/ Baca

    Do they mention the historical context of leather trenchcoats?

  • Newbourne

    I think you just took the movie more seriously than what was expected of you. It was definitely meant to be campy and funny. A man explodes and his guts fly all over Gretel and she shrugs and says "the curse of the uncontrollable hunger for worms, I hate that one." You're meant to laugh and think "WTF". That's what the whole movie was about. A lot of the comments are in the vein of "it was so bad, it was funny", but that was the point in the first place! Even the witchs' make-up were meant to be funny. Do you really think they thought that was supposed to scare people? The whole film was played for laughs.

    All-in-all, I thought it was quite fun. It didn't change the history of cinema and I probably wouldn't see it again, but I wasn't bored watching it and that's more than what I can say for something like Gangster Squad.

  • http://www.everyeliakazanmovie.blogspot.ca/ IngmarTheBergman

    I am sick and tired of these terrible 'dark fairty-tale adaptations.'

  • Roger

    I dunno, but I don't see how this could have fared better as a comedy. Do you mean funny like Zombieland? Or Shaun of the Dead? I think those movies made fun of the concept which made it a comedy. Keeping the same premise here but selling it as a comedy does not seem like it would work to me, unless it was starring Adam Sandler.

    Personally, my interest for this movie would be even less if it was actually a comedy.

    I mean, Laremy has this at 27MIL$ this weekend? MTC Tracking at 23MIL$. If it ends up close to that, to me that's a win. Studios can't be disappointed with that on a 50MIL$ budget + INTL dollars + DVD/Blu-Ray $$ which will probably be where it does best.

  • http://shloggshorrorblog.blogspot.com/ Shloggs

    I saw this last night at a packed Liemax screening and the audience disinterest was palpable. Crickets through the whole thing. It was basically the Mummy Returns with F-bombs and 100 million less of a budget. Avoid.

  • Liz Adams

    How disappointing! I was looking forward to seeing the film, especially since I wrote an erotic version on Amazon called "Hansel and Gretel with the Sexual Hunter." I'll probably still end up watching it. Lol!

    ~Liz Adams

  • Rv

    I watched it last night and actually enjoyed it. It was just pure fun! I'll give it a solid B for entertainment!