“Hansel & Gretel”: How Grim Is It?
Once upon a time, I predicted Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters would be 2013’s worst movie, based on the trailer alone. That was before I realized it wasn’t an unintentional comedy. Recut previews revealed that the movie, exec-produced by Will Ferrell, was actually meant to be a spoof. So I went to see it—for $16 in IMAX 3D, no less—expecting a campy good time. And guess what? It’s 2013’s worst movie (so far). And bear in mind: I saw Parker.
Jeremy Renner continues his Nicolas Cage-like descent from Oscar-caliber actor to action-movie punchline as Hansel, whose traumatic childhood experience with his sister Gretel (Gemma Arterton, who’s lovely but no more convincing a human being here than she was as Strawberry Fields in the 007 misfire Quantum of Solace) leads to their titular career. In one of Norwegian writer-director Tommy Wirkola’s typically tortured attempts at humor, Hansel shares what they learned from nearly getting eaten: Never go inside a candy house, and if you’re going to kill a witch, it’s best to “burn her ass.” Maybe the comedy got lost in translation.
There’s a disturbing undercurrent of misogyny throughout Hansel & Gretel: Wirkola seems to take pleasure in depicting the brutalization of not just the witches (including the always-underrated X-Men vet Famke Janssen as the wickedest of them all) but also Arterton’s Gretel. Renner apparently attempts to ignore it by stumbling through the movie; much of the time, Hansel is supposed to be drunk, and you wonder if Renner was, too—at least when he signed the contract to do this stinker.
The 3D effects mostly seem like an afterthought; you’d think a movie that features the fairytale characters sporting anachronistic steampunk weapons would’ve done more with the technology, but apparently Wirkola (and MGM, Paramount and MTV Films, which all collaborated to produce this turkey) couldn’t be bothered. After the first few minutes, even the stabs at humor seem like too much to ask for and the film descends into a brain-numbing barrage of gory fight scenes, which render the movie inappropriate for the bedtime-story demographic. Still, that didn’t stop one family from taking their entire brood, including preschoolers, to see it at the New Jersey multiplex where I witnessed it. I felt like calling Cinematic Child Protective Services.
After less than an hour and a half, Hansel & Gretel limps to its conclusion, which sets up the potential for a sequel, with the duo joined by a stalkerish groupie (Project X‘s Thomas Mann) and a troll named Edward. With the film opening at No. 1 at the box office, that might not be such a far-fetched prospect. But the only truly happy ending I can envision is, to paraphrase Hansel, “The only good Witch is a dead Witch.”
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