What do you say about a movie that can be summed up in a baffled head shake? You’ll find yourself doing that a lot if you dare endure Tommy Wirkola’s Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.
The premise for this unnecessary new spin on the classic fairy tale feels like a studio executive playing a game of chicken with Hollywood – seeing just how far they could take a ridiculous story and milk the “high demand” of darker fairy tale adaptations.
If that was the case, that executive should’ve known when to bail – or at least gotten a good look at Drew Goddard’s The Cabin in the Woods to see how to take a judgemental audience by surprise.
Because, that’s what the film should’ve done. Instead of churning out the same bloody grime fanboys have grown used to with the flogging of the Resident Evil saga, Wirkola (who is not only the director, but also co-wrote the screenplay with D.W. Harper) should’ve pulled the rug out from under his audience. Make those skeptical moviegoers embarrassed for going in with preconceived thoughts!
Making Hansel and Gretel “bad ass” witch hunters isn’t enough of a game changer – especially when the marketing has been latching onto that thread for dear life. Even making the film R-rated and riddling it with gory head explosions isn’t going to “wow” audiences.
Is it so bad, it’s good? Try again. Everything is so serious that it evaporates all the fun out of the scenes. Even the usage of 3D is a letdown. The screening I attended took place in IMAX 3D and I kept wondering why we were watching it in this format. Other than a couple brief moments of debris flying slowly towards the screen, the technology is uneventful and wasted.
The peculiar thing about Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is the inclusion of Gary Sanchez Productions. For avid moviegoers, they’ll know that this production company belongs to actor Will Ferrell and writer/director Adam McKay (Anchorman, The Other Guys).
When we see that logo flash on the screen, those moviegoers are taken back. When Ferrell and McKay show up as producers in the opening credits, everyone is taken by surprise. Surely with these two minds attached to the project, the film will have a biting take that we haven’t seen before.
Instead of thinking outside the box, Wirkola’s film wishes to give us “the same ole’ stuff”. As characters are being introduced and the story is establishing itself, we wait eagerly to see if the film is going to surprise us.
The story thuddingly rolls along and doesn’t break that seriousness….and the audience still eagerly awaits.
By the time the film is over, we’re left disappointed and wondering what influence Ferrell and McKay had on the project. Was it to get the film recognition? Was it to convince investors, studios, and the cast and crew that they were, in fact, working on a real movie?
Audiences do get a couple instances of the film trying to be bizarrely creative and funny. For instance, milk bottles come with pictures of missing children tied onto them with string and Jeremy Renner’s Hansel has become “diabetic” because of all the candy he’d eaten when he was cooped up in a witch’s candied abode.
The placement of the jokes and how they’re delivered don’t fit, but at least we see the film straining to be innovative while keeping to it’s game plan. The problem is creativity should never feel strained. If a filmmaker is straining and over-reaching for something, maybe they’re better off directing all their focus to maintaining one genre and trying to be “all they can be” creatively-speaking in that specific genre.
Speaking of straining, I find myself doing the same when I’m trying to find redeeming qualities in Wirkola’s film. Besides the attempted jokes, we get a proper usage of coarse language in an old-timey looking flick (something Your Highness overdid it with) and some nostalgic puppetry with the character of Edward.
But even then, there are way too many elements that keep moviegoers waiting and longing for something new, that we become distracted inevitably making Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters an unenjoyable experience.