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Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters


This article was published January 25, 2013 at 2:59 a.m.


Sugar-craving Hansel (Jeremy Renner) takes on a yoked pair of witches in the R-rated fractured fairy tale Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.

— An R-rated horror action comedy fairy tale - how’s that for genre bending?

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is more Gatling guns and grenades than The Brothers Grimm. It takes the kidnapped kiddies into adulthood, where they’ve parlayed their fame at cooking a witch’s goose into a business. Got a witch problem? Call H & G - the extermination experts.

High-concept pitch or no, the movie doesn’t really work. They were shooting for sort of a witch hunting Zombieland, a vulgarity riddled Van Helsing packed with comical anachronisms - a Bavarian forest past with witch trials, pump shotguns and primitive tasers, where bottles of milk have woodcut pictures of missing children on the labels.

Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) show up just as the village of Augsburg is about to burn a redhead. “Gingers” were a favorite target of witch hunters. Hansel shrugs this barbaric crime off, but Gretel insists that the locals need “evidence.” That puts them in conflict with the sheriff (Peter Stormare), who can’t get a handle on their “witch plague” and the missing children who come with it. Hansel and Gretel have been hired to do what he cannot.

It isn’t long after Hansel mutters “Anyplace we can get a drink in this hellhole?” that the siblings are on the job, chasing lesser witches in pursuit of the Great Witch, played by Famke Janssen as if the makeup is going to do all the acting for her.

And there may be trolls involved.

“Trolls are extra,” Hansel growls, always watching their bottom line.

Hansel and Gretel have a groupie (Thomas Mann), and the woman (Pihla Viitala) they saved from burning in the opening scene wants to repay the favor to Hansel, a repayment that involves skinny-dipping. And when they’re on the clock, they have all manner of clever gear to help them battle the wand wielders - pistols, rifles, a semiautomatic crossbow, the aforementioned taser (hand cranked).

Writer-director Tommy Wirkola focuses on the fights and flings all manner of viscera at the 3-D camera as limbs are whacked off and heads and torsos explode. Less attention was paid to the story, and the dialogue is a tad over-reliant on the random vulgarity to land a laugh.

The cleverest touch? Hansel’s mania for candy-covered houses is what landed Hansel and Gretel in that witch’s clutches, all those years ago. Now, he carries an ancient hypodermic needle and takes injections to ward off insulin shock.

The moral of the fairy tale? Lay off the candy or a witch’ll get you.

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters 75 Cast: Gemma Arterton, Jeremy Renner, Famke Janssen, Peter Stormare, Thomas Mann, Pihla Viitala Director: Tommy Wirkola Rating: R, for strong fantasy horror violence and gore, brief sexuality/nudity and language Running time: 86 minutes

MovieStyle, Pages 31 on 01/25/2013

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