What happens after Hansel and Gretel burn the witch that was trying to kill them? That’s what the premise behind Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is, and that’s exactly what you find out. The siblings start using their newfound witch-killing skills to save other children. When they grow up, they monetize their skills and become fancy bounty hunters. Hooray.
Writer and director Tommy Wirkola could have turned this into an absolute disaster had he opted to do things differently. For instance, if he chose to pursue a darker or more serious tone this would have fallen apart with a thud like Van Helsing or Snow White and the Huntsman. But he doesn’t! He does something smart and makes the movie tongue-in-cheek.
See, the film is in on the joke. It realizes that its premise is ridiculous and it rides it toward the end. And certainly, the actors are also in on it. Everyone is, and that’s the joy of Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. It knows what it wants to be and it goes to accomplish that. During the film, your mind will instantly think of something about the film and then the script will wink at you and go “yeah buddy, I’m right there with you! This is batshit, but let’s do it.”
And this approach works wonderfully. It lines everything with a healthy dose of fun and rather than laughing at the film you laugh with it at some of the more ridiculous moments. Like hey, what would a odd Hansel and Gretel fanboy do if he were in a room alone with a grown-up, attractive and unconscious Gretel? If your mind went in a certain direction, then the script is right there waiting for you.
Unfortunately, the film suffers mostly from not being more tongue-in-cheek. There are moments where it tries to make us care for the characters more or spend time on an ultimately useless romantic side-plot when it doesn’t need to.
Other than the quips and fun tongue-in-cheek moments there’s some fun action to watch. There are trolls being trolls (as well as being The Hulk), there are a wide assortment of witches, different ways to kill said witches and some interesting weapons. Of course, the question that instantly comes to my mind is “if only there were more of them!” Stars Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton do well and contribute to all the fun, but most of their talents are ultimately wasted.
During the dull moments of the film, of which there are many, one cannot help but want to move on to the next quip or action scene. But overall, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunter is a fun ride that’s worth a watch for its self-awareness. It’s not something you should rush out and see, but it’s perfectly fine for a time suck or a mindless adventure during its home video run.