By Roger Moore
An R-rated horror- action-comedy-fairytale — 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.
High concept pitch or no, the movie doesn’t really work. They were shooting for sort of a witch-hunting “Zombieland,” an f-bomb-riddled “Van Helsing” packed with comical anachronisms.
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 off this barbaric crime 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. H & G have been hired to do what he cannot.
It isn’t long after Hansel mutters “Anyplace we can get a drink in this hell hole?” that the siblings are on the job, chasing lesser witches in pursuit of the Great Witch, played by Famke Janssen.
Writer-director Tommy Wirkola focuses on the fights, and flings all manner of viscera at the 3-D camera. Less attention was paid to the story, and the dialogue is a tad over-reliant on the random f-word to land a laugh.
The cleverest touch? Hansel’s mania for candy-covered houses is what landed Hansel & 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 fairytale? Lay off the candy or a witch’ll get you.
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