So, you all know the story, yeah? Hansel and Gretel are left in the woods, stumble across a house made of sweets (I refuse to say ‘candy’), get trapped by the witch that lives there; eventually kill the witch and escape. This is the What Happened Next? you were all dying to know about, right? Well, it turns out brother and sister Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Aterton) have grown up to become witch hunters, travelling from town to town dispatching the child-napping witches and collecting the reward.
It’s a great set up for what you’d hope would be a fun gore fest that sends up its inherent silliness and gives you some laughs along the way, as director Tommy Wirkola’s previous film, the Nazi zombie horror/comedy Dead Snow did, balancing the violence with black humour and still being a decent zombie film. Unfortunately, Hansel and Gretel gets the balance way off, and ends up a mish mash of interesting but ultimately failed ideas.
Tonally the film is all over the place. You’d think the whole point of a film like this would be to play up the fact that the whole premise is daft, but everyone involved plays it with a straight face which clashes horribly with some of the elements of the story. Films like The Princess Bride and even the not very good Your Highness at least knew they were stupid and part of the joy of those films was that they knew what they were and took affectionate digs at the genre while still being good films in there own right (well, maybe not Your Highness). Everyone in Hansel and Gretel seems ashamed of the type of film they’re making and the attempts to make it serious which just don’t work. At times, you wish it had just gone for the out and out comedy route as it would be all the better for it; the most entertaining the film seems to think it needs to be is to give our steampunk anachronistic weapons and swear every so often. There are glimmers of good jokes in there and a few great one liners scattered about, but after every one we’re brought back down to earth with boring exposition and the least surprising surprise I’ve seen in a long time.
Overall though it’s a bit of a damp squib, with half baked ideas, dull villains, terrible fight scenes made even more incoherent due to horrible 3D and lead actors who, like the audience, are also unsure what type of film they’re in. Gemma Arterton comes out of it alright, but Renner is fast becoming an actor with barely two facial expressions; a scowl and a slightly angrier scowl. He doesn’t have the charisma this type of light hearted romp demands.
Uneven, messy and feels far longer than its 88 minute run time. There are faint glimpses of something better but they’re few and far between.
Review by Jonathan Cardwell.
Thanks to our sponsors at the Odyssey Cinemas
Don’t forget to book your tickets for Hansel and Gretel at the Odyssey Cinemas here.