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Movie review: Hansel and Gretel, Witch Hunters

January 31, 2013

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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it's probably one of those times when one should have known better.

A movie's title often tells you a lot about where it’s going, doesn't it? In "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters", the new retro-spin Witch-hunting movie starring Gemma Arterton and Jeremy Renner, a witch is offed in 2.5 D (this is where cut-out animations try to get into the 3D fad) with extreme prejudice.

The witch, out of a long-line of witches who die blood-splattering deaths in the credits, show that the brother-sister duo have been "professionals" for quite a while now; and despite being a tad bored by their enterprise, they don't waste their time on the job.

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The witches are nasty creatures, with craggy features that look of withering limestone, needle-pointed chins and big black eye balls – more importantly – crooked nails that need an urgent manicure.

One of them, though, looks like she's made it to the plastic surgeon: she is Muriel (Famke Janssen), a grand-old witch who's after Gretel because of her "white-witch" heart.

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The last line was kind of a spoiler; but then again, in the screenplay by writer/director Tommy Wirkola (co-written by Dante Harper), there is no such thing as spoilers (probably because we've seen all of this before – most of the times in telefilms or direct DVD releases).

Of course, Mr. Wirkola's film, which surprisingly credits Will Farrell as a producer, has a bigger budget to flaunt its routine throwing knives at audience in 3D.

3D is probably a good thing for the movie, not because of it’s in your face stereoscopy - far from it. It’s because the higher ticket prices and premium openings will help the movies’ box-office before the word of mouth actually kicks in.

"Hansel and Gretel" is one of those fodders that had a bad-review coming ever since its first trailers came out (not that any critic is bias about any film beforehand, mind you).

As the reels start rolling, it quickly becomes apparent that the movie is a collection of man vs. witch fisticuffs hanging on a scruffy plot that doesn't care to go into details.

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Logic dies as gruesome the death of the film's witches, when at a point Hansel collapses and we find out that he's diabetic (was there even a cure for diabetes then? Who makes his insulin injections, I wonder...).

After a prelude of the original Bros. Grimm story of a young Hansel and Gretel (Cedric Eich and Alea Sophia Boudodimos) and a hungry witch in a gingerbread house, the "duo" – now Ms. Arterton and Mr. Renner, both with contrasting, present century accents, and newfangled weaponry are hired to track down an unknown witch who's kidnapping children (why witches eat children, is never explained as well, by the way).
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Law enforcement, played in perfect cliché by Peter Stromare, doesn't give a hoot  and as the trend went in that particular era, we see them implicating a fair, young maiden (Pihla Viitala) as a witch.

Yes, it goes without saying Ms. Viitala has a bigger part in the movie as Mr. Renner's romantic interlude.

Not to be left on the backburner, Ms. Arterton's Gretel also has admirers: one of them (Thomas Mann) is an ‘alone in the world with no family’ type with a fascination for Witch-memorabilia; the other is a troll named Edward.

Like "Snow White and the Huntsman", it’s a sad day for cinema when a monster becomes the film's most likable personality. Enough said.

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Directed by Tommy Wirkola; Written by Mr. Wirkola and Dante Harper; Music, Atli Örvarsson and Hans Zimmer; Cinematography, Michael Bonvillain; Editing, Jim Page; Producers: Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, Kevin Messick, Beau Flynn, Chris Henchy, Christoph Fisser

With: Jeremy Renner (Hansel), Gemma Arterton (Gretel), Famke Janssen (Muriel), Pihla Viitala (Mina), Derek Mears as Edward with Robin Atkin Downes as Edward's voice, Thomas Mann (Ben), Peter Stormare (Sheriff Berringer), Rainer Bock (Mayor Englemann), Thomas Scharff (Hansel and Gretel's father), Kathrin Kühnel (Adrianna), Cedric Eich (young Hansel) and Ale Sophia Boudodimos (young Gretel).

Released by Paramount Pictures and Footprint Entertainment, the film is rated "R" - parents strongly cautioned. A lot of unattractive witches are gutted, innocent travels explode via witch craft and young people of the old fairy-tale world, often end-up shouting "Awesome!"