Try digitalPLUS for 10 days for only $0.99

Movies

Entertainment Movies

'Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters' a fairy tale sprinkled with viscera, swearing ★ 1/2

An R-rated horror action comedy fairy tale — how's that for genre bending?

"Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters" is more Gatling guns and grenades than the Brothers Grimm. It takes the kidnapped kiddies into adulthood, where they've parlayed their fame at cooking a witch's goose into a business. Got a witch problem? Call H & G, the extermination experts.

High concept pitch or no, the movie doesn't really work. They were shooting for sort of a witch-hunting "Zombieland," an F-bomb-riddled "Van Helsing" packed with comical anachronisms — a Bavarian forest past with witch trials, pump shotguns and primitive stun guns, where bottles of milk have woodcut pictures of missing children on the labels.

Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) show up just as the village of Augsburg is about to burn a redhead. "Gingers" were a favorite target of witch hunters. Hansel shrugs this barbaric crime off, but Gretel insists that the locals need "evidence." That puts them in conflict with the sheriff (Peter Stormare), who can't get a handle on their "witch plague" and the missing children who come with it. H & G have been hired to do what he cannot.

It isn't long after Hansel mutters "anyplace we can get a drink in this hell hole?" that the siblings are on the job, chasing lesser witches in pursuit of the Great Witch, played by Famke Janssen as if the makeup is going to do all the acting for her.

And there may be a troll involved.

"Trolls are extra," Hansel growls, always watching their bottom line.

Hansel and Gretel have a groupie (Thomas Mann), and the woman (Pihla Viitala) they saved from burning in the opening scene wants to repay the favor to Hansel, a repayment that involves skinny-dipping. And when they're on the clock, they have all manner of clever gear to help them battle the wand-wielders — pistols, rifles, a semi-automatic crossbow, the aforementioned stun gun (hand-cranked).

Writer-director Tommy Wirkola focuses on the fights, and flings all manner of viscera at the 3-D camera as limbs are whacked off and heads and torsos explode. Less attention was paid to the story, and the dialogue is a tad over-reliant on the random F-word to land a laugh.

The cleverest touch? Hansel's mania for candy-covered houses is what landed Hansel & Gretel in that witch's clutches, all those years ago. Now, he carries an ancient hypodermic needle and takes injections to ward off insulin shock.

The moral of the fairy tale? Lay off the candy or a witch'll get you.

'Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters' -- 1 1/2 stars
Opens:
Friday
MPAA rating: R (for strong fantasy horror violence and gore, brief sexuality/nudity and language)
Running time: 1:26

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
  • Top 50 superhero movies of the last 10 years

    Top 50 superhero movies of the last 10 years

    Since 2002 there have been arguably 50 movies about superheroes. Arguably, because genre is tricky; it's often variations on a theme, and some variations are less obvious than others. ("Star Wars," for instance, a bit of a space western, is no one's picture of the western genre.) Oh, also: Because...

  • 'Quartet': Dustin Hoffman's directing debut has sterling cast, so-so script ★★ 1/2

    'Quartet': Dustin Hoffman's directing debut has sterling cast, so-so script ★★ 1/2

    Murder most foul is one thing. Murder most fair is another. The veteran hambones starring in "Quartet" get away with murder most fair, through eye-bugging delight in a double-entendre in close-up (Billy Connolly); charmingly distracted line readings (Pauline Collins); underplaying so dry it becomes...

  • 'Parker': Statham makes off with heist-payback tale ★★★

    'Parker': Statham makes off with heist-payback tale ★★★

    "Parker" roars into a dull January and enlivens the movie landscape, and thank the action-movie gods because we needed a little something to wake us from our winter slumber.

  • 'San Andreas' review: Demolition derby

    'San Andreas' review: Demolition derby

    The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars. The fault is the star of "San Andreas," a fairly entertaining weapon of mass destruction reminding us that life's blessings come to those who receive preferential billing.

  • 'Aloha' review: Hawaii so-so

    'Aloha' review: Hawaii so-so

    For context's sake, the new Cameron Crowe film "Aloha" is a tick up from the dregs of "Elizabethtown" and a tick down from "We Bought a Zoo." The Media Action Network for Asian-Americans calls it a "whitewashed" version of Hawaii, a state that is roughly 30 percent Caucasian in real life and, as...

  • 'Yves Saint Laurent' review: Haute drama

    'Yves Saint Laurent' review: Haute drama

    Even in a contemporary film culture where no idea seems too thin to try twice, the arrival of two Yves Saint Laurent biopics in the space of five months counts as a distinct curiosity: The enduring influence of the French fashion god, who died in 2008, is beyond question, but his life doesn't seem...

Comments
Loading

72°