TV / Movie Reviews

At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters “2013”

MPAA Rating: R/Genre: Action-Fantasy-Horror/Stars: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, Peter Stormare, Thomas Mann, Derek Mears, Pihla Viitala, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Joanna Kulig; Voice of Robin Atkin Downes/Runtime: 88 minutes (theatrical) and 98 minutes (unrated)

“If you’re going to kill a witch, set her a** on fire.” Oh, but didn’t you know? There are many other methods to murder a witch, quite a few of which are way more absurd and found in the downright mindless slice of cinematic pie I am reviewing today, 2013’s Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. Indeed operating more like a supernatural NRA cover spread we get such things as Gatling guns, shotguns, crossbows, grenades, tasers, and other twists on modern weapons and all drenched in some manner of holy water of sorts that all do what they are intended to do….much to the love of gore hounds everywhere. Everyone else please be prepared to sigh and roll your eyes quite often during this. I mean if a slice of cinematic pie ever had “uhhh this is real?”, “well….that’s a Hollywood movie” scribbled ineligibly across it this would be one that fits that fairly well. I mean yes you should never critique a slice of cinematic pie by its plot or its promotional material, but this is one movie that I can easily call a poster child for the new way Hollywood has been doing things. By that I mean this slice of cinematic pie is so clear in what it is aiming to be that you don’t even need to see the movie, or watch the trailer for that matter, to guess that this film is going to have gonzo action beats, cheesy dialogue, and even a Matrix-style “slow motion moment” where we see Hansel get out of the way of an incoming arrow in the nick of time. Indeed it is the kind of film that really provides weight to the argument that the land of movie magic has all but decided to abandon even giving us films that are “good” and instead are content in giving us cheesy and gonzo cinema that seems more about making a profit for the studio than anything else. Suffice it to say then that whilst yes Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is a film that, by the end of either version you watch, is mindless entertainment at its finest, I should let you know that you should be prepared to have quite a few of your precious brain cells to say nothing of your faith in just movie magic in general seriously depleted after sitting down and giving this a watch.

The plot is as follows: So stop me when this sounds familiar: a pair of kids are left all alone in the middle of a dark and creepy forest and manage to find a distinct house made entirely of edible sweets. Unfortunately. It quickly becomes apparent that this house of Hershey and all the other candy makers is a trap that has been set by an evil witch who aims to make any child who finds her lair into her dinner. Thankfully, our dynamic duo are able to outsmart her and, in the ensuing chaos, burn her alive in her oven and escape to live another day (hopefully one without candy of any sort). Thus we see the pair grow up and become a highly regarded pair of skilled and armed to the nth degree witch hunters, but you may know them better as Hretel and Gansel ehhh Hansel and Gretel. To that end, when this slice of cinematic pie’s narrative proper gets underway, we see that our dynamic duo have been hired by the mayor of a nearby community in order to find some kids who have recently gone missing. We also see that the mayor is not on the best of terms with the short-fused town sheriff who would much rather put this job in the hands of his own squad and who is someone who is notoriously quick to burn someone believed to be a witch at the stake and then question if she was indeed one much later on. Of course, it should come as no surprise to learn that with the game afoot, our intrepid duo is soon able to figure out their foe in all of this is a particularly nasty and powerful witch going by Muriel who has conjured up a spell that can make her and the other evil witches immune to the effects of fire. Thus with no less stakes than the lives of both 12 kids, and maybe even the world, in the balance, our duo must work together with several unlikely partners to thwart Muriel at any cost and also before a rare astrological event known as the “Blood Moon” comes to pass which has the potential to give power to these nasty and vile witches on a scale hitherto undreamt of.

Now if there is even remotely anything that this slice of cinematic pie manages to get as close to right as possible, with the exception of some surprisingly decent makeup effects on the witches as well as a solid dollop of blood and guts that actually looks quasi sorta realistic, it would be the beginning since it manages to ensnare the haunting and ominous mood of the original story with an engaging energy and appreciated uneasy atmosphere looming overhead. Sadly things begin their downward ascent following a hackneyed, clichéd to the hilt line from Gretel the moment the first witch is shoved into her oven, and from there the real film begins and we see that the real movie is one that deals more in watered down thrills and spills whilst trying to locate the parts that will engage the audience the most in an ocean comprised by and large of faulty pieces. Yes this is a film that strives to be a cheesy yet on the line, comedic yet also visceral and gory format that requires you to give it as much attention as your popcorn and soda. Thus with all the weapons being utilized, a one-dimensional cast of characters, blood and guts aplenty, and dialogue which will make you roll your eyes with glee, it is not that difficult to ascertain that this film is full to the brim and then some with the best kind of creativity imaginable. Delightful sarcastic sense of humor aside though dear reader, it really is quite difficult to sift through this slice of cinematic pie without deciding to engage in measures designed to save your IQ level from dropping any lower. I mean not only is this the kind of film that you can take on a serious level, but it also is not one that you should consider taking serious to begin with. I mean there is just too much in the way of both faulty parts and eye-rolling comedy in this to begin with for this slice of cinematic pie to even be taken seriously in the first place.

Suffice it to say that although this film is headache-inducing in nearly every respect, at least it isn’t fake in any respect; rather it joyfully enwraps its brainless format and every single rehashed element that goes into developing this into one of the slices of cinematic pie that 2013 wishes it could forget. Indeed here is a slice of cinematic pie that falls prey to the calamity of predictability at every given turn and every given manner. Yes every element has a reason for being there, but that reason is extremely obvious in the worst manner possible. I mean do we think the girl they declare to not be a witch at the beginning won’t have significance to the story? Uhhh what do you think? Is there anyone out there who really believes that the duo’s philosophy that every witch has telltale signs that they are one (or something to that effect) might come back later on? Gee that might be possible. Oh and one of my personal favorites: Is there anyone out there who does not suspect for even a minute that the self-confessed #1 fanboy of our duo might be an asset in helping bring down the main antagonist when all is said and done? Again that’s extremely likely….Actually I’m glad I brought that one up last because it gives me the chance to segue into talking about this movie’s chief antagonist. A witch of a woman who, sadly despite a game performance by Famke Janssen, is lacking in motivation, style, and is not entirely as memorable as she could have been. Plus let’s not forget her idiotic Tweedle-Dee/Tweedle-Dum henchmen though in all fairness by and large movie villains don’t have the best track record when it comes to sidekick selection. Thus I think it is safe to say that this whole film deals primarily in superficialities. Thus if you come to this looking for even a degree of depth to the proceedings then proceed to be frustrated as all get out. If however you are in the mood for something that will force you to leave your brain at the door then this might be an ok match.

All in all I think it is safe to say that the slice of cinematic pie that is Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters manages to operate exactly as you might be able to predict that it will. By that I mean that this slice of cinematic pie is, amongst other items of varying degrees of interest, a genuine fantasy, gonzo in its levels of goofiness, and a slice of cinematic pie that is not one that has any desire in even the slightest for you to take it seriously be it in its moments of action, the dialogue that comes out of the cast’s mouths, or both for that matter. Not only that, but this is also a film that you can see where it is going from a mile away, is by and large severely void of any imagination whatsoever and thus is a spot-on example for what can potentially go wrong with a slice of cinematic pie that should’ve just gone straight to video. Ah well at least on a technical level this is still well done and does provide those who watch it with a modicum of mindlessly engaging entertainment to be had. As it is though, this is one film where those who scorn this kind of film should steer as far left as possible, but if you are needing something to kill an hour and a half and not really have much to think about afterwards….you honestly could do a lot worse. On a scale of 1-5 I give Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters a solid 2.5 out of 5.