January 27, 2013

Movie Review: Hansel & Gretel - Witch Hunters

Originally slated for release nearly a year ago, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters was delayed in order to do a post conversion to 3D (which is actually pretty decent). It would not surprise me if there were reshoots or other types of tweaking during that time. Whatever the entire truth behind the delay may be, I strongly suspect the studio just had no confidence in the movie. While the concept makes sense for a movie, it does not exactly scream out to be a box office success.

The film has now arrived and is surprisingly an R-rated film. I was pretty shocked to discover this. The idea of the twisted fairy tale is not a new idea and seems perfectly designed to be a PG-13, especially when you have a film that does not have the confidence of its studio. Count me among those who was glad to discover the R rating on this release.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters opens with a retelling of the original fairy tale that sees the brother and sister abandoned in the woods by their father, their discover of the candy house, the nasty with contained within, and the subsequent burning of said witch in her own oven. Of course, if something like this happens to you, it inevitable that you will grow up to be a killer of witches.

Following the opening credits, the movie picks up our titular heroes, Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton), as they arrive in a small town at the behest of the mayor to help rescue some children who have been kidnapped during an increase in witch activity. Of course, the town sheriff (Peter Stormare) is none too pleased to have this duo in his jurisdiction.

The story turns out to be simple enough, the witches need kids for a spell and our witch hunters head off to rescue them. Of course, things are bit complicated as the childhood of the hunters comes back to haunt them.

The movie was written and directed by Tommy Wirkola, the man behind the Swedish Nazi zombie movie Dead Snow. He brings a freewheeling spirit to this film, combining humor, blood, and action in one over the top slice of entertainment. There is no way this fractured fairy tale was meant to be taken seriously.

I went in not really expecting all that much from it. The trailers seemed to indicate some fun, but sometimes it is hard to tell. The truth of the situation is that while there are some rough patches where subplots appear to have been cut and a case of memory loss for the residents of the town, there is an undeniable energy, a relentless forward surge that is just a lot of fun. It doesn't hurt to hear the F bomb dropped a few times and some witch blood shed.

While I found myself enjoying the movie, I find I do not have a whole lot to say about it. I guess I am attracted to the energetic fashion in which the story is told, how the they go for the entertainment factor over all else. It is an odd film, simple, yet still interesting. It goes a long way towards showing how the right creative team can make something worth the effort.

The movie has a snarky attitude that helps tie everything together. Also love the fact that they made one of the heroes a diabetic. Of course, they never say the word diabetes, but it is pretty clear what it is. This is one of those little details that help endear the film to me.

The music is fun and helps draw you in, and the effects are not to shabby either. It s clear that this is not a big budgeted film, but they make do with what they have. In particular, the work on the troll Edward (Derek Mears) is pretty impressive.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters overachieves but never overreaches. It knows what it is, and is confident in what it wants to be. Is there any more that you really need? This is a movie meant to be enjoyed and not over thought. It is not a perfect movie, but it gets a lot right. Most importantly, it is fun. The R rating doesn't hurt either, it uses it to is benefit


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