Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is insane. When I first saw the trailer, I thought that it was a joke. It looked like something that Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez dreamt up together on a rainy day at Troublemaker Studios. I would soon find out that this was an actual film, that it was produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, and that it was coming to theatres. I knew that I had to see it. Hollywood had taken my favorite fairy tale and added a considerable amount of testosterone and all around goofiness.
When the film was finally released, the critics loathed it. Some of them had a point, but the majority of them obviously weren’t in on the joke. This is not the kind of film that wins the Oscar or the Palm D’Or. This is Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. This is a stupid little diversion that is meant to throw an outlandish story in your face and keep you entertained for 87 minutes. The film accomplishes all of this and nothing more. I thought it was hilarious. The sight of a steam-punk Hansel and Gretel gunning down witches with machine guns makes me laugh, and at a brief 87 minutes, the film never wore out its welcome.
The film opens with Hansel and Gretel’s parents deciding to abandon the children in the woods, for reasons that aren’t revealed until the third act. As you well know, the children wander into the middle of the woods, and come upon a large house made of candy. After they nibble a bit, the door opens, and they let themselves in – only to be caught by a disgusting witch with a taste for human flesh. The witch attempts to fatten Hansel up by feeding him large amounts of candy. When they day comes to throw Hansel in the oven, Gretel stabs the witch to death, and cuts Hansel free. The two then proceed to push the witch into the fire, killing her.
Years later, Hansel and Gretel have become bounty hunters, who seek out and kill local witches for profit. Hansel is handsome and headstrong, but suffers from diabetes. As a result, he must take insulin shots every few hours in order to stay alive. Gretel is just as wild as her brother, with a bit more common sense. The two make a great team.
When eleven children disappear in the little town of Augsburg and witchcraft is suspected, the mayor hires the two siblings to seek out the witches, kill them, and return the children alive. The corrupt sheriff would rather take matters into his own hands, and he goes out of his way to cause trouble for Hansel and Gretel. With the help of an avid fan-boy, a friendly troll, and a white witch, Hansel and Gretel set out to conquer the Grand Witch and set the children free before the ritual of the Blood Moon, which involves human sacrifice.
This is the story in a nutshell. There isn’t a deeper subtext. Nothing to expound upon. Just lots of blood and carnage and tongue-in-cheek humor – with a dash of Tim Burton-esque set design for good measure. Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton are perfect as Hansel and Gretel, and they are clearly having a blast with this material. The director, Tommy Wirkola, as well as the entire cast have made the wise decision to avoid seriousness at all costs. They know exactly what kind of film this is. This is a B-movie, pure and simple. This is a grindhouse feature with a huge budget. You’ll either have a great time or you will hate it and forget it as the credits have rolled.
If you have 87 minutes to spare this weekend, by all means, see Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.
Memorable line: (as Hansel and Gretel approach a house made of confectionery treats) “Whatever you do, don’t eat the f*ckin’ candy.”