Making Grimm’s fairytale grim
“Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” puts its own twist on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale.
The film opens when a young brother and sister, abandoned in the woods by their father, are subsequently captured, fattened, and nearly eaten by a witch. Happily, the siblings outsmart their captor and survive. A subsequent montage of village newspapers establish that as young adults, Hansel and his sister grow into consummate, well-paid witch hunters.
When next we meet the duo, they are attractive and acutely aware of their surroundings, glistening in their shiny black leather ensembles. However, they’d be more credible as father and daughter than as siblings, since Hansel, played by 42-year-old Renner, looks older than his age, while 27-year-old Gemma Arterton looks five years younger than hers.
Summoned to the German village of Augsburg by its mayor (Rainer Bock), Hansel and Gretel arrive in time to prevent Augsburg’s sheriff from burning at the stake innocent local girl Mina (Pihla Viitala). An admittedly seductive young redhead, Mina seems to have stirred a desire for barbecue in the misogynist sheriff’s (Peter Stormare) black heart.
The mayor has called upon the pair because he believes a dozen missing children were taken by a witch who resides in a nearby forest. Hansel and Gretel will be paid handsomely to kill the witch and find the children, but as they ready themselves and their weapons (his Gatling gun and her automatic-firing crossbow), for the task, the sheriff hires his own witch hunters, a trio of idiots he commands go into the forest at night, something even Hansel and Gretel refuse to do.
While the reasons for the sheriff’s abberent behavior are clear as mud, his hired killers make handy playthings for the witch (Famke Janssen) – whom she reduces to tangles of hair and blood.
Soon enough, Hansel and Gretel enjoy their own encouters with the witch, and the witch’s two adolescent daughters who share her zombie-like appearance, and power to shape-shift.
Given the film’s numerous unresolved plot threads, the crash of this story comes as no surprise. The one bright spot is a sensitive troll named Edward. Played by Derek Mears clad in a troll-suit, Mears conveys more trepidation and emotion from his characterization than do all other cast members combined. Five crew members, required to control Edward’s eyebrows, feet and other body parts, deserve a share of the credit for their seamless contribution to Edward’s deep sense of sadness.
As for the other actors, whether they believed in the project or sought to cash in on what they hoped would be a profitable new franchise, each is made to look even more foolish than he ought to feel.
Once upon a time, fairytales were read to children as a means of teaching them to carefully choose whom to trust. Movies such as this one should be shown to actors who ought to be equally careful in choosing a trustworthy director.
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