This will come as a surprise to no one at this point I’m sure, but Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is a terrible movie. And please note the use of the word terrible as opposed to bad. To a certain extent that I should probably be ashamed to admit, I rather love bad movies. Because bad moves that are gleeful and scenery-chewing in their badness (e.g.: The Man With the Iron Fists and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) are actually very fun.
But no. This movie is terrible in the way Avatar: the Last Airbender was terrible. It is so devoid of joy and life that it actually begins to suck the life from the audience, like some sort of evil, cinematic vampire. The only thing that made Hansel and Gretel at all better than A:tLA was that I didn’t have to listen to my husband’s running list of complaints regarding the poor quality of Katara’s tai chi in this movie. On the other hand, A:tLA also had the (un)intentional hilarity of Aasif Mandvi to enjoy for his brief moments of smirking. No one in Hansel and Gretel was half that lively.
I received a text message in the middle of the movie (don’t worry, my phone was on vibrate) and I got up and left to check it, hoping for good news. All said and done, I probably missed a good 5-7 minutes of the movie and I could not have cared less.
I think it could have been a fun movie if there had been a nod and wink to the audience like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter had given us in abundance. Instead, Hansel and Gretel couldn’t seem to decide what it wanted to be. It was overly serious about a concept that should have been darkly hilarious, needlessly gory, and with anachronism that made the entire thing feel off balance rather than whimsical. I feel like they really tried to get their R-rating, set out for it, and there is absolutely no purpose behind it. I like the word fuck as much as the next person, but frankly there was no point to its addition to the dialog beyond a badly aimed attempt at edginess that the movie did not warrant and should not have needed.
The one and only thing I liked about this movie was Gemma Arterton as Gretel. Not because I was in the least bit convinced by her performance or interested in her character, but because for once there was a woman in an action-y movie that got to be badass without being made simultaneously into a sex-kitten. She never has a love interest. She never gets subjected to sexual assault or humiliated based on her gender. I really liked that.
But on the other hand, the woodcut-like illustration of the opening titles made me deeply uncomfortable at the beginning, which I think killed any cheap enjoyment I might have garnered from the overly fake gore. Frankly, all I could think of from the beginning was the Burning Times. This is not a mental association that’s a recipe for fun, no matter how deliberately anachronistic the setting becomes later; I started the movie feeling creeped out and the feeling never went away. (I realize this is not a reaction the vast majority of people will have, and I can’t say why it bothered me as much as it did; I certainly didn’t go in expecting to feel that way. But it may explain why I personally just could not find anything even remotely cute in this move.)
I wouldn’t even waste my time netflixing this one unless you’re desperate for some Jeremy Renner and can’t find The Bourne Legacy anywhere.