The movie business is all about “the latest craze.” We’ve seen the swell of support for movies about vampires and werewolves (thank you, Twilight, but you can sit down now), and the upswing in zombie movies (thank you, Walking Dead). But there are movies that fall before (Van Helsing) and after (Beautiful Creatures) that don’t quite arrive in time: such is the case of Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.
Painted as a blend of parody and straight-up horror/action, the movie centers around the Brothers Grimm’s characters, the two children who thwart the forest-dwelling witch by shoving her in the oven. Hansel (the usually excellent Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton, Quantum of Solace) survive their run-in with the witch as children, lose both parents, and grow up to be witch hunters. “The only good witch is a dead one” as their motto, the two make money destroying dark forces (think Terry Gilliam’s The Brothers Grimm) until one town where they’re hired to save the children.
The humor, the action, the gore, and general script are all pretty standard. Famke Jannsen (Taken franchise) stars opposite the siblings as the evil witch trying to free all witches from the curse of burning to death; Peter Stormare plays a corrupt sheriff who is part malicious, part bumbling. Unfortunately, from a story and flow perspective, this one goes everywhere you’d expect it to and nothing really surprises. A few modern-inclusion items were amusing, like the old school defibrillator and insulin use, but otherwise, this was pretty stock.
Spoiler Alert: Of course, the revelations that a) their parents didn’t abandon them but died protecting them and b) that they were witches (that good witches existed!) seemed so obvious that they shouldn’t have counted as big reveals. But they did reveal a nominally pointed story about real-life in a fairy tale parable. The fact that we have choices and we’re not born a certain way tells us a lot about the worldview of the movie. If a witch could use their powers for good or evil, and chooses good, then that means a bad witch (or troll) could go good and vice versa. It allows that film’s and the human population’s worldview to be bigger than it initially would have been if everything was static and predetermined.
In the end, it’s not a great film but it’s not the worst one I’ve seen this spring.