Movie review: Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters
Reimagining of children's tale could have done with a lot more imagination
Posted: March 6, 2013
Don't look now. The one on the right doesn't have a face for film, and the one on the left doesn't have the acting talent for film.
You're not likely to see many things this year that could be worse or more ridiculous than Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.
Apart from poor Jeremy Renner, who still has to make do with an awful amount of very bad lines, the acting is terrible, the story itself is only mildly interesting, and the imagery is uninspired, even insipid. Perhaps the only saving grace is Famke Janssen, who is always delicious in the role of a seductive black-haired übervixen, and, although this film is beneath her, she was probably the best choice for this particular role.
Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters seriously deviates from the original fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, but, though this detour could have been made interesting in a variety of ways, the Norwegian director Tommy Wirkola - the man behind the Nazi zombie neoclassic Dead Snow and no stranger to blood and gore - simply throws the word witch around and expects us to cower in fear of evil either seen in the rotten faces of said witches or unseen, lurking in the bushes.
But Wirkola does this with a bad screenplay, actors who have no shame basically line-reading their dialogue (Gemma Arterton, who plays Gretel, in particular), scenes that are shot in front of very visibly artificial backdrops and 3-D effects that are lifeless. Once again, as happens all too often, the 3-D technology (in the case of this film, even in IMAX, which would be an appalling waste of your money) is used not for the benefit of the audience, but for the benefit of the producer's wallet, which would never be able to make a profit otherwise.
Directed by Tommy Wirkola
With Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, Thomas Mann
Even the one part of the film that is supposed to offer some kind of link to the original story by the Brothers Grimm, namely the house in the forest made out of candy, is shoddy in its conception as it looks terribly unappetizing.
The story starts with Hansel and Gretel as children, taken into the forest by their father as he and his wife are being hunted down, for a reason as yet unknown. When their father doesn't return, they make their way to the candy house, where an evil witch awaits them, subsequently locking them up and feeding them - you guessed it - nothing but sweets.
After a few years of bittersweet incarceration, they manage to incinerate the witch and escape from the house. But all that sugar has had a very nasty effect on young Hansel, who has turned diabetic and now has to inject himself every few hours, lest he immediately become dizzy and die.
This is an absolutely farcical depiction of diabetes (something this reviewer knows a thing or two about), and, despite the obviously fictional nature of the film, injecting into the story such a condition, which never features in fairy tales, one would expect it to be treated with some seriousness.
Diabetes is an element that takes us out of the story and brings us back to the real world, and by not treating it with the necessary gravity it demands, the film spoils the potential for suspending our disbelief.
Injections do not depend on the time of day as much as they depend on what you eat, and for the film to pretend otherwise and suggest that you would die if you failed to inject yourself at that specific time is ridiculous and rather irresponsible.
The film itself could have done with an injection of common sense, as these self-declared "witch hunters," whose exploits and adventures are thrust full-screen in headlines during the opening credits, almost never manage to hit their prey, even when the witches or other villainous creatures are up close and in their face.
The screenplay is bad, but it is not incoherent, which counts for something in this utterly simpleminded expansion of the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale we all know. Certainly not meant for the same audience as its literary predecessor, this adaptation that alternates between crimson red and pitch black is a film best left unseen.
Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is uninteresting, uninventive and unwilling to use the genre of the fairy tale to either amuse or intrigue us. No, Wirkola goes for the jugular, literally, but fails in every way to get our attention because every attempt at entertainment falls far short of any standard some of the worst films have set.
André Crous can be reached at