Susan Granger’s review of “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” (Paramount Pictures)
The title’s terrific and I’m sure this campy Grimm horror/action/comedy concept sounded better on paper, particularly with funnyman Will Ferrell and his collaborator Adam McKay as producers.
As the twisted fairy tale unfolds, young Hansel and Gretel are captured by a hideous witch after they’ve nibbled on her candy cottage. That’s just the prologue, as now-adult Hansel (Jeremy Renner) explains. 15 years later, he and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) roam the Bavarian woods as wisecracking, revenge-seeking vigilantes, skillfully saving medieval towns from the wrath of prowling witches with their automatic cross-bows.
But now there’s a Blood Moon, a kind of eclipse that makes witches impervious to fire. Led by the evil Sorceress Muriel (Famke Janssen), frenzied and ferociously empowered witches are snatching and imprisoning children from Augsburg for a black Sabbath sacrificial feast. The villagers are frantic, and bottles of milk have woodcut pictures of these missing kids on the labels. Just as Sheriff Berringer (Peter Stormare) organizes a witch hunt, Hansel and Gretel arrive on the scene, saving Mina (Pihla Vitala), who develops a yen for Hansel, while Gretel’s stalked by Ben (Thomas Mann), who’s read about her in newspapers. When she’s unexpectedly saved by Edward (Derek Mears), a giant troll, Gretel learns long-kept secrets about her heritage.
Written and directed by Norwegian-born Tommy Wirkola, best known for his comic horror film “Dead Snow” (2009) about Nazi zombies, it’s filled with ghouls, goblins and gutter-mouthed dialogue. In a perceptive moment, Wirkola makes Hansel diabetic, injecting himself with insulin to prevent “the sugar sickness” but that’s never explored.
It’s appalling to realize that Oscar-nominated Jeremy Renner went “The Hurt Locker” to this leather-clad, bottom-of-the barrel drivel. Filmed in the spring of 2011, before Renner did “Marvel’s The Avengers” or “The Bourne Legacy,” it’s sat on the shelf long enough to get stale.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” is a preposterous, blood-splattering 3, not even worth the price of admission, let alone the added 3-D surcharge.