Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

There’s a moment in the opening credits of Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters that may give you hope and will certainly give you pause. As a cleverly constructed animated sequence gives the backstory of how young Hansel and Gretel went from abandoned children defeating a witch in candy house to a pair of fearsome hunters, you’ll notice the words “Produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay”.

Huh, what?

Indeed, this latest cross-genre mashup has the backing of the fellas who gave us Anchorman and The Campaign. So Hansel & Gretel is a hilarious spoof?

Nope.

Okay– so it’s a satire-laced horror flick then?

Nope again.

Turns out it’s not really sure what it is– other than a tongue-in-cheek, anachronistic, bloodbath.

Cinephiles know well that January is the perennial dumping ground of movies that shouldn’t have seen the light of day, and Hansel & Gretel doesn’t do anything to disprove that. Norwegian writer and director Tommy Wirkola (Dead Snow) is making his stateside debut, and even though he had an admittedly interesting concept, he just can’t make it work.

Had taken things a little more seriously he could have had a decent pseudo-horror flick, or if he had loosened up a bit, Hansel & Gretel could have been a solid comedy. Unfortunately he chose to play it safe, and neither happens. Makes you wonder where Ferrell and McKay were during production.

Filmed way back in 2011, Hansel & Gretel stars Jeremy Renner (before he was even cast in The Bourne Legacy) and Gemma Arterton (hot on the heels of her work in 2010’s Prince of Persia) as the titular duo. While both do their best to rise above the mess that is all around them, they can’t overcome a lifeless script and head-scratching anachronisms. Yes, it’s cute that both carry medieval-looking machine guns in their quest to dispatch witches, but also toting a Taser (centuries before electricity) pushes the bounds of believability into the realm of the ridiculous.

There’s not much plot to speak of here; it’s basically just (a blessedly-short) 88 minutes of the sexy, leather-clad pair killing witches in any number of ways– all of which result in copious amounts of blood spurting toward your face in all-too-vivid 3D. Nary a laugh to be had.

Apparently when McKay first heard of the whole Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters idea he exclaimed, “That’s a freakin’ franchise! You could make three of those!”

Now that’s hilarious.

2/5 stars