Before watching ‘Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters’ earlier this year on Amazon Prime, the only exposure I’d gotten of it were horrible TV spots and this trailer:
The trailer left an awful taste in my mouth, worse than gingerbread drywall ever could. My first thoughts were “What the fuck – another ‘re-imagined’ fairy tale? Jeremy Renner’s getting a paycheck, Famke Jansen is desperate for roles, and this is just another Hollywood crap-fest some studio threw against the wall and hopes it will stick to the teeny-bopper Twilight crowd.”
Oh – and the TV spots had horrible puns as taglines that turned me off – such as “Revenge is sweeter than candy,” and “The Fairy Tale grows up.” – Super lame.
Also working against it was a late-January theater release date. January and February is where films go to die – usually (Thankfully ‘The Lego Movie’ was an exception to that). That release date made me think the studios didn’t think enough of it, but had to release it anyways.
But here’s the hard data – The ratings on Rotten Tomatoes are abysmal. 15% of critics liked it. But I kept seeing posts on Reddit about how it wasn’t that bad. It has a 6.1 rating on IMDB. So I went and looked at the Wikipedia page for Hansel and Gretel. And here’s some of the biggest factors I found that would have pushed me to see this had I known about them:
– It’s rated Fucking-R! There’s gore, there’s swearing, there’s T&A! (If you go back and watch the full trailer, it never mentions that the film is rated-R. That should have been a HUGE selling point).
– Produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay. Had I known this, I would have expected it to be funnier than the trailers show.
– It’s a “hindsight is 20/20” thing, but the film MADE OVER FOUR TIMES ITS BUDGET BACK, mostly from a strong overseas performance ($50m budget vs. $225m box office). A sequel is in very early stages of pre-production. For comparison’s sake, Van Helsing made less than twice its budget back ($160m vs. $300m box office) and Jack the Giant Slayer (which was released just a month after HAG:WH) made less than its original budget ($200m vs. $197m box office).
Those points aside, here’s why you should give ‘Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters’ a chance.
It’s a dark parody of other fairy tale “re-brands.” The hero in these kinds of stories always has some kind of flaw that makes him not-so-invincible, and in this case, it’s that Jeremy Renner’s Hansel has “the sugar sickness” from his forced feedings at the witch’s house when he was a child. So yes, he has diabetes. The writers also weren’t striving for accuracy, as most of the characters have indistinguishable accents and speak using very modern vernacular. The film also doesn’t take itself too seriously, a la ‘Mr. & Mrs. Smith’ or ’21 Jump Street.’
The puppetry, make up, and practical effects. Where other films in the genre (see ‘Van Helsing’ and ‘Jack the Giant Slayer’) go full-on CGI, director Tommy Wirkola opted for practical effects and puppet creatures that at least come close to Jim Henson’s work.
Here’s Famke Jansen’s makeup as the Witch Queen:
And if you’ve got a few minutes, watch this behind-the-scenes video that shows a whole lot more than I can write here.
And finally, it’s not that long of an investment. There are two cuts of the movie, and the one on Amazon Prime checks in at a svelte 88 minutes (the “uncut” version has 11 extra minutes of footage that is more gruesome, and in one case, a lot darker). It’s a well-paced, fun movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Is it high art cinema? Not at all. But sometimes that’s not what we’re looking for. This is a diamond in the rough. Or at the very least, a lollipop after a salad.
Highly underrated movie. Much like The Brothers Grimm.
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