This witch-hunt is a grim fairy tale, alright

The idea is [that Hansel & Gretel have] grown up and they hunt witches,” a producer explained. “It’s a hybrid sort of old-timey feeling, yet there’s pump-action shotguns. Modern technology, but in an old style. We heard it and we were just like: ‘That’s a freakin’ franchise! You could make three of those!’”

To which this reviewer can only say: what a depressing thought. The premise may be potentially legitimate. The storyline adds depth to the Brothers Grimm’s concise original. And reaching deep for praise, I even found something to like about the film’s solitary troll who provides a nice variation to the endless swarms of Halloween-y witches who beset the plot.  

Having said all that, I really don’t know how to interest a viewer in this clunky, self-satisfied slice of CGI and 3D-enhanced horror comedy. To be fair, I was never the film’s target audience. But that’s because I happen to like my mashed-up entertainment done with just a touch of intelligence – that’s reasonable. Simply imagining Hansel and Gretel (Renner and Arterton, respectively) 15 years later as self-ordained vigilantes out for witch blood is not enough, although I did find it an inspired touch that Hansel has contracted diabetes from eating too much candy back at the witch’s place. It’s at least refreshing to see a stereotypical hero embarrassed by his insulin injections.

Norwegian writer-director Tommy Wirkola gained some notoriety with the cult Nazi zombie pic Dead Snow in 2008. This, his first Hollywood outing, is most of all a star vehicle for the sombre Renner (The Bourne Legacy and Avengers) and the fetching Arterton. Sleepwalking through the motions as tough, sexy icons of medieval bounty hunting, they have their work cut out for them when they’re commissioned to rescue several children kidnapped by witches, who unfortunately are less scary due to their familiar cartoonish quality.

Weapon aficionados will appreciate the gory climax, which is about as plausible a story as the nude scenes in which Hansel goes skinny-dipping with a star-struck, well-endowed ‘white witch’. In terms of romance, sister Gretel is less fortunate. She only manages to seduce a geeky teenager and an emasculated troll.

 

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (15)

 

Dir: Tommy Wirkola; US action/adventure, 2013, 88 mins; Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, Zoe Bell, Peter Stormare

Premiered February 7

Playing nationwide

 




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