Movie Review: ‘Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters’

Gemma Arterton and Jeremy Renner in Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters

Gemma Arterton and Jeremy Renner in 'Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters' - Photo © Paramount Pictures

Reviewed by Ian Forbes

For a brief moment I thought about employing an age-old reviewing strategy for Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters; namely using as many words as there are minutes in the runtime (88 in this case). However, I had a couple of points to make and so this review will easily pass that mark (already about 30 words away).

Obviously, when looking at a movie like this, one does not expect cinematic brilliance, award-caliber acting, wildly innovative storytelling. Don’t worry, you won’t get it. Also, if you’re one of those people who think IMAX 3D is the bomb diggity, well … that’s … just sad really … but in any case, it doesn’t matter here. Sure it may be shown under that guise in some places but the 3D is almost never immersive and practically always gimmicky. And if you don’t realize what’s wrong with seeing a letterbox presentation on an IMAX screen, keep throwing your money away. I doubt you had better plans for it anyway.

Okay, technical bits aside, I will provide positive points for this appropriately scheduled January release. First off, Jeremy Renner is fun. He doesn’t get to do much here you haven’t seen already but I like his screen presence. More importantly to the title duo, I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated how beautiful Gemma Arterton is. During whatever corny or useless moments I normally might have let my brain wander with other films, I was unabashedly swept up in her visage.


Peter Stormare and Famke Janssen get little cameos and that’s cute. Actually, as far as character development goes, the right choice was made here and there’s very little given to anyone not named Hansel or Gretel. Again, this isn’t the kind of movie one expects to be anything more than passably competent. Nor should it be when the most likable ancillary character is a troll that bears a remarkable resemblance to the Rock Biter from The Neverending Story.

What there is for a script does try to twist up the familiar fairy tale and it does so amiably; smartly avoiding long-winded speeches and just getting on with the action. Where films like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Jonah Hex failed were in their ability to embrace the camp and forgo the notion of thinking style choices would make up for a lack of enthusiasm. Hansel & Gretel surely isn’t some remarkable piece of genius but it delivers on its expectations so while I won’t attempt to find many words of praise, I also don’t find the need to take a hammer to it either.

Now sure, the action scenes are badly composited, full of quick cuts and all shot far too close up, but there’s just something fun about watching two attractive people hack, slash, and shoot their way through scores of monsters. When pressed for a reaction to the film, all that came to my mind was “dumb, but moderately fun.” Still, if that’s the kind of movie you want, then it’s out there waiting for you. Just remember to find the non-IMAX, 2D version. I’m sure the Gummi Bears you can now afford will be a nice complement to the blood and silliness.

GRADE: C+

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters hits theaters on January 25, 2013 and is rated R for strong fantasy horror violence and gore, brief sexuality/nudity and language.

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Ian Forbes

Member of the San Diego Film Critics Society, writing film reviews since 2005. Curmudgeon and lover of Susanne Bier films. Sadly, unlike Candyman, saying my name three times in a mirror does not result in my sudden appearance. However, you'll likely find me wherever a movie is severely melancholy.

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