“Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” doesn’t really know what kind of movie it wants to be, so it tries to be everything at once. The result is a swing-and-miss of epic proportions.
The first, most pressing question is simple: How did the producers afford respectable actors like Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arteron? Renner and Arterton are both severely limited by comically bad writing and direction.
The movie feels as if it could go several different directions, but the only way a movie about Hansel and Gretel gunning down witches with massive machine guns (inexplicably present hundreds of years before their invention) succeeds is if the characters are likable and believable and if the writers don’t take themselves too seriously. “Zombieland,” for example, did both of these things.
“Hansel and Gretel” does neither. The action is too violent, the language is too coarse and Pihla Viitala (who plays Hansel’s love interest) gets much too naked to allow the admittance of younger audience members who might be attracted by the concept of a new take on an old fairy tale. Older viewers will be bored by the childish premise and the heavy-handed jokes (Hansel got diabetes from eating the witch’s candy. Get it?!). And in-between audiences (teenagers, mostly) can find violence and nudity much more accessibly elsewhere. Thus, the identity crisis. The makers of “Hansel and Gretel” have no idea who their target audience is.
There are two redeeming features. The first is Hansel and Gretel’s interaction as siblings. Somehow, two incredibly attractive actors manage to avoid an incestuous vibe throughout, which — given the film’s other failures — is a massive relief.
The other redeeming feature is the over-the-top nature of the violence. The somewhat lighthearted feel of the movie makes the gruesome violence less abrasive and more humorous. Whether or not it’s healthy to find a villain getting his head crushed into a pulp amusing is a topic for another day.
But all in all, “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” is too contrived and too unlikable to be anything but a failure. Burn the witch and any evidence of this movie.