Now we all know the story of Hansel and Gretel, a sad tale about a poor woodcutter and his wife who have to abandon their two children in the witch-infested woods in order to not starve to death, and it already sounds like it could be a pretty good movie plot.
Writer and director Tommy Wirkola, who you may know from previous strange films such Nazi zombie horror Dead Snow, has given this classic German fairytale a new twist and, despite the amazing, and somewhat surprising, cast of Gemma Arterton and Jeremy Renner, it feels like this is a tale that should have stayed in folk lore.
It’s not usually a good sign when the opening scene is the best of the film, but credit where it is due, the beginning offered some genuinely scary moments and a quite beautiful visual creation in the witch’s candy house, but once we left the familiar tale of the two children outwitting the evil witch and found ourselves with their adult equivalents, it became a confused and unsatisfying film full of as many plot holes as point plot devices. Hansel and Gretel seemed at its best when no one was talking and the two just got on with battling witches, but, unfortunately, the film had to have its moments of exposition and so had to have dialogue which never seemed to know which genre it belonged to. It was hard to distinguish which parts were meant to be serious and which were parody, and the scenes which got the most laughs were evidently not the scenes with jokes in them.
…lifeless punchlines or catchphrases…
With the amount of creative deaths and gory moments it seemed like a script that could have really done with taking itself a bit less seriously, and would have benefitted from just letting the blood splatter a bit more, but the vivid battles were constantly being reined in by the lifeless punchlines or catchphrases that Renner and Arterton delivered, which themselves were diluted even further by the amount of unnecessary swearing, which seemed to only help in increasing the word count. The needless details, such as Hansel’s inexplicable need to inject himself with some unknown antidote (apparently it’s due to too much witch candy) every time he has nothing better to do, added to everyone’s growing knowledge that this was a story that never really knew where it was going.
There were a few points of welcome relief when someone’s head was blown off or Gemma Arterton started fighting in a 19th century corset, but they were few and far between, and the laughable love stories between Gretel and Edward the troll and Hansel and a witch who drops her dress as easily as she introduces herself, were far more memorable than any of the good points. In short, this story was about as convincing as the prosthetics they used. If there had been a distinct style or more confidence in the different styles breached, then this film could have been a success, but as it is, I’m afraid that though it may look like a delicious candy house on the outside, it doesn’t end well once you see the inside.