I must admit that when I first started hearing about Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters I had some moderately high hopes. You see there’s a type of movie that I rather enjoy: the popcorn flick. You know the type; it’s a bit ridiculous, lots of one liners, actors having fun. We’re not talking about high art here we’re talking about fun. Fun at the movies. If you have been following us for any length of time you know that Simon last had this experience with Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.
We’re talking about the type of movie where you sit down, turn your brain off and enjoy the ride. I was disappointed by a couple of films that promised to be this last year. So how are we doing with the first big effort this year? Actually, pretty freaking good!
Director Tommy Wirkola’s resume isn’t that long but he’s best known for the horror comedy Dead Snow released a few years back about a group of kids being terrorized by nazi zombies. Thinking about that movie now it feels like a dry run leading up to this. Where that movie faltered mixing up the horror and comedy, this movie has a pretty good mix of action and comedy plus a healthy dose of blood and guts and gore to round things out.
The story is fairly basic. Hansel and Gretel survive the childhood ordeal slightly differently than you remember it from the fairy tale and end up orphan witch hunters who come to a town with a bunch of kids gone missing. Much anachronistic badassery ensues.
There’s not anything here you haven’t seen before though and at just over 90 minutes long there isn’t really time for anything you haven’t seen before either. This movie is short and to the point; what little back story we need is given in a brief prologue and then the beautifully animated credits and then we jump right into the story.
I think this is actually one of the films major strengths. Previous fairy tale re-imaginings I’ve seen that try to make sure you know they’re serious films end up boring. This movie doesn’t want you to be anything other than entertained so plot is kept to a minimum and action to a maximum.
And yet despite it’s predictability, it works. When things are revealed you’re not going to be surprised but I didn’t care I was busy enjoying a well staged fight, some well executed gore, or a zingy one liner.
Speaking of action and gore, there’s a nice blend of practical and digital effects at play too. Some things are obviously CG but there’s one big practical effect that I loved. I don’t want to spoil it (even though it isn’t really a secret it’s not in any of the marketing) but if you’ve listened to the podcast when this has come up you can probably guess what it is when you see it.
The film is rife with anachronism as well. The film seems set in the early 1800s but the weapons in Hansel and Gretel’s arsenal appear to be from anywhere from the 1860s to the 1920s and everyone speaks in a thoroughly modern mode of speech.
I’m sure a lot of these elements are going to wear thin pretty quick for a lot of you but they didn’t for me. Chalk it up to the films short running time or the fact that I actually like watching bad movies. Or both.
The films stars do pretty well with what their given. Jeremy Renner might be phoning it in but Jeremy Renner phoning it in is still pretty good. Gemma Arterton plays the whole thing as an over the top ass kicker and that’s actually pretty awesome. Famke Janssen isn’t amazing but her character is such a one dimensional bad guy that it doesn’t really matter. Bottom line here though is that it seems like everyone involved is in on the joke and as such it feels like everyone involved is having a blast making the movie.
I don’t want to leave you with the impression that this is a good movie. Quite the opposite, it’s a bad movie.
Lets be honest it’s a movie based on a joke of a title and it does get repetitive. That said, I still had fun watching it. It’s a bad movie, but it’s so bad I enjoyed it.