Director: Tommy Wirkola
MPAA Rating: R
Film Pulse Score: 4/10
When you walk into a movie about two orphan bounty hunters who got their start cooking a witch in an oversized gingerbread house, you’re not expecting much. While Hansel and Gretel certainly falls in the category of campy, pulpy, “turn off your brain” flicks with its farfetched premise, tongue-in-cheek self-awareness, and fairytale steam punk art direction, it fails to deliver the fun characters, consistent tone, and ridiculous fight scenes that make other CGI laden actioners worth the ticket price.
The film gets the audience off to a quick start, getting us to the premise before we have time to figure out the plot holes. The legendary orphan duo, now infamous witch hunters, are hired by a mayor who wants them to bring justice to the witches abducting children from the town. Fueled more by vengeance than by the mayor’s coin, cynical Hansel and vehement Gretel compete with the local authorities to solve the case before the “blood moon” – a night when the witches will grow more powerful and harder to kill.
Asking for more than flat, two dimensional characters in an automatic crossbow wielding, shoot-em-up fairy tale thriller might be a stretch of expectations, but a lack of chemistry between the two killer siblings and an almost forced relationship between Hansel and his “Mary Jane” love interest sucked all the fun out of what could’ve been decent characterizations. Sub characters like the stereotypically corrupt head of police are so easily forgotten that the few scenes dedicated to their predictable storylines border on the line of boring and annoying. To top it off, nobody in this medieval realm acknowledges the fact that half of the characters speak as if they just got back from a meeting at Arthur’s roundtable while the other half drop f-bombs and one-liners that sound like were cut from early drafts of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
While the characters suffered from a distinct lack of diversity, the writing suffered from a tonal overload. The film jumps from campy to dramatic to sarcastic to serious and back again, without ever really succeeding with any of them. Giant tasers, arm-sized shot guns, and other cool but unexplained gadgets made it difficult to determine the rules of the world – at the end of the film you’re still wondering if what you went through was a steam-punk fantasy realm, a medieval fairytale village, or some awkward combination of both. Either way, it’s not close to what the Grimm brothers had in mind in 1812.
Besides the obvious silliness, uneven writing, and flat characters, Hansel and Gretel wasn’t entirely unwatchable. Edgy production design, convincing CGI, and shamelessly violent showdowns keep the fairy tale from becoming too Disney-esque. The film moves at a fast pace (thankfully) complemented by an equally eerie and epic Hans Zimmer soundtrack. But if you’re looking for the next best lowbrow splattery fan boy film, you’re going to have to find it in another fairytale.