Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5. Germany/USA, 2013. Paramount Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, MTV Films, Gary Sanchez Productions, , Deutscher Filmforderfonds. Screenplay by Tommy Wirkola. Cinematography by Michael Bonvillain. Produced by Will Ferrell, Beau Flynn, Adam McKay, Kevin J. Messick. Music by Atli Orvarsson. Production Design by Stephen Scott. Costume Design by Marlene Stewart. Film Editing by Jim Page.
As children, they ate the candy off a witch’s house and almost died for it, but thanks to some quick thinking were able to turn the game around and cook the old crone in her own oven instead. Now fully grown up, the most famously abandoned children in fairy tale history have become professional witch hunters, traversing a storybook-looking northern European(ish) landscape with modern weapons and a vulgar vocabulary, hunting down and killing the evil women who do nasty things to village children. They unwittingly come back to the place of their childhood and realize that they are on the precipice of a dark Sabbath: all the local bad gals are gathering up under the leadership of a grand mistress (Famke Janssen, delightfully campy) and are planning to do away with a whole slew of children in order to make themselves immune to burning. It is up to our heroes Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) to put a stop to their nefarious plans, outdoing not only the big bad witch ladies, but also the town’s sherriff (Peter Stormare) who insists on doing things his way. This embarrassing, mawkish combination of elements resides very comfortably, to my surprise, in the Bad but Watchable category, a stupid piling of disparate elements (they have automatic weapons and yet they play music on ancient gramophones?) and a complete inability to decide its demographic (there are too many F-bombs for this to be watched by children, not to mention graphic violence, and yet nothing about it comes off as particularly grown up). It also has two of the blandest action heroes you have ever seen, with Renner phoning it in for the paycheque and Arterton one of the most colourless young women to ever appear in the lead of a major motion picture; thank goodness that Janssen (who was a much better Bond girl before our heroine was) is having a great time, even though she’s still not up to the mischief that Nicolas Roeg’s witches enjoyed. Despite all this, it doesn’t hurt to endure it, but do not confuse this statement with either praise or a recommendation: it’s basically something only worth watching if you have any desire to watch it at all.