Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters 3D

Directed by: Tommy Wirkola

Starring: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, and Peter Stormare

If you’re gonna kill a witch, set her ass on fire.
– Hansel (Jeremy Renner)

There has been a recent trend of modernizing traditional fairy tales and converting well known characters into butt-kicking action stars.  Snow White and the Huntsman and the upcoming Jack the Giant Slayer come to mind.  Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters 3D is the latest attempt by Hollywood to try to cash in on popular characters from fairytales.

The film starts with a young Hansel (Cedric Eich) and Gretel (Alea Sophia Boudodimos) being roused by their father in the middle of the night, taken from their beds and dropped off in the middle of the woods.  Hansel and Gretel are left alone, scared and lost.  They stumble across a house made of candy and start to nibble.  When they go inside, a hideous evil hissing witch imprisons them.  She locks them in a cage, and force feeds them candy to make them fat.  Hansel and Gretel are clever, and they escape by trapping the witch and burning her alive.  Although they escape the forest, the brother and sister never see their parents again. 

After battling the witch, they develop a talent for witch hunting and become bounty hunters. Years down the road, adult Hansel (Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) are hired by a town desperate to save its children.  Numerous children have been kidnapped from the village by witches.  Unbeknownst to the townspeople, grand witch Muriel (Famke Janssen) has set a plan in motion to empower all evil witches which requires the blood of innocents.  Hansel and Gretel must come up with a way to foil the witch’s plans.  But as they battle Muriel, they also must face the demons from their past.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters 3D has a lot of interesting elements that could have made this an awesome film.  It was produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay.  Jeremy Renner is one of the hottest actors in Hollywood after star turns in The Avengers, The Hurt Locker, and Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol.   The women cast in the film are known for being pretty badass– Famke Janssen from the X-Men Franchise and Gemma Arterton from Clash of the Titans.  Moreover, everyone knows the story of Hansel and Gretel, and the idea to make them witch hunters is actually pretty clever.

The problem, however, is the execution.  The plot is incredibly simplistic.  The tone of the film is inconsistent.  I couldn’t decide whether it was supposed to be campy and funny with a wink towards the audience, or if it was a legitimate attempt at a fantasy/adventure.  In addition, the mixture of modern dialogue and phrasing and automatic weapons in a historical setting just did not mesh well.  Simply put, the film is all over the place.

There were some bright points, however.  Janssen has some fun as the evil grand witch and exudes the right amount of menace and disdain for mortals.  Arterton also delivers as Gretel and could easily step into an action franchise.  In addition, there are some nice action sequences, a great troll named Edward, and a few funny lines throughout.

Overall, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters 3D was entertaining in places, but too uneven to make this film anything more than something to watch on cable one boring Sunday afternoon. The brother and sister team earn a 0.09% rating.  If you do choose to see it, do not waste money on the extra 3D price.  The effects are not special enough to warrant the additional expense.  Have a fairytale cocktail with this one.