Movie Review: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters eats too much candy
Compared to the rest of the gritty reboots of classic fairy tales, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is the less marketable, gory, profane, R-rated reimagining. For that, I have to give them props. If anything, it seems like the entire goal of creating these “dark” fairy tale stories is to cash in. They could have easily had their PG-13 cake and an Unrated DVD release as well, but instead followed through, offering up an actual “gritty reboot” version of a fairy tale story.
Hansel and Gretel still stumble upon a candy house in the woods, and they still get captured by a witch and eventually fry her in her own oven. The difference is that the story continues, jumping in time by several years, where we find Hansel and Gretel as famous witch hunters. When they arrive in a town with a particularly bad witch problem, the story proper begins.
The pair are foul-mouthed and armed to the teeth. They aren’t afraid to get bloody or dirty, and it isn’t long before they’re soaked in blood and guts. Hansel & Gretel honestly has more in common with Hellboy or Blade than Alice in Wonderland or Snow White & The Huntsmen.
Unfortunately, without that Guillermo Del Toro-magic that made those movies so great, Hansel & Gretel is a bit lacking. Yes, the pair are cool and attractive, occasionally funny, and they kill witches in some unique ways, but they’re also empty. Hansel is shy and grumpy, while Gretel is idealistic and full of energy, but that’s about as far as the character development goes. The best touch is probably Hansel’s need to inject “medicine” every few hours as a result of his childhood candy gorging.
The biggest problem with Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is that it’s in such a rush to wrap things up from square one. You can feel it in the editing and a soundtrack that turns the epic up to 11 every step of the way. The pair clearly have some kind of character arcs, but scenes go straight from introductions to lessons learned, without the conflict you’d expect in between. When revelations about their past are conveniently rolled up into a completely unrelated battle, the whole thing starts to feel like a flashy rollercoaster ride, rushing audiences in and out for maximum ticket sales.
Hansel & Gretel has a few things going for it, but ultimately it amounts to some forgettable dark fantasy. The best way to put it would be this: I don’t feel like I got anything out of the full film that I couldn’t glean from the trailer. The film is in desperate need of some care and pacing.
Another way to put it: It seemed like things were getting interesting just before the credits started rolling. Had the film spent more time on its characters and less time on its dull plot, we could have had a truly exciting adventure.