REVIEW: 'Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters' not exactly what the Brothers Grimm had in mind

By Gary Wolcott, atomictown.comJanuary 25, 2013 

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is the continuing story of Hansel and Gretel. It's a sequel of sorts. However you choose to define it, there is a 100 percent certainty this is not what the Brothers Grimm imagined when they penned their collection of folk tales in 1812.

Not even close.

The movie is done by a writer/director and a writer you've never heard of and who've done movies you've never heard of. It opens with Hansel and Gretel as children being taken into the woods and abandoned by their father. They stumble onto a house made of candy instead of gingerbread. Within is an ugly, wicked witch who tries to fatten them up to eat, but ends up being pushed into an oven by the two children.

That's the story you know.

Flash forward more than a decade later, and they're famous witch hunters. Wherever they go, Hansel and Gretel make headlines in what passes for the tabloids of the day. She's armed with a machine gun-like bow that fires multiple arrows, and he has an automatic rifle of some sort. Later on, Hansel produces a Gatling gun.

You're starting to get the picture. Disney lovers and children are not the target audience for this one. No one will remember either Hansel or Gretel using four-letter words. No, the target audience for Hansel & Gretel is young males and those digging today's violent video games.

One positive is the 3D if you choose to see it that way. That really is how this one ought to be seen. The effects are terrific.

Jeremy Renner (The Avengers, The Hurt Locker) is Hansel. Gemma Arterton, whose only movie claim to fame is as Strawberry Fields in Quantum of Solace, plays Gretel. Famke Janssen (Taken 2) is Muriel, a wicked witch who has kidnapped and plans to kill a bunch of children from a village. Their death will bring her incredible power.

Renner has never been a very good actor, and for a guy making a career of playing action heroes, he's not all that buff or threatening looking. Arterton and Janssen are quality actresses and are probably in this one because you do have to work to eat.

By the way, if you ever get the chance, Arterton did a terrific little art film in 2010 called Tamara Drewe. There, she has a chance to show off considerable acting chops. That's not the case here.

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters immediately loses itself in violent chases and fights packed with bullets and arrows flying and the tossing of energy bolts. They run together one following another as the plot weaves its spell. Continuity of plot and a story that makes sense apparently doesn't matter to co-writer and director Tommy Wirkola.

Nor will it matter to the people who love action flicks like this one. Some of the action sequences are actually fun, and having the witches ride just any old tree branch instead of brooms is inspired.

So you can say Wirkola's movie isn't awful. But it isn't very good, either.

Director: Tommy Wirkola
Stars: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, Peter Stormare
Mr. Movie rating: 3 stars
Rated R for mature themes, extreme violence, brief nudity and language. It's playing at Regal's Columbia Center 8, the Fairchild Cinemas 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.

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