Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Hansel and Gretel, All Grown Up

A Review of Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters

"Brothers Grimm who--?  I don't understand what I'm looking at here."

I watched Hansel and Gretel with very little expectations--perhaps that's why it managed to surprise me.

At one point during the film, I glanced down at the play bar to see that it was more than halfway done.  During many a movie, this habit of mine happens much earlier and more frequently, often followed by an anxiety for the amount of time still left to lumber by.  But Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters was actually quite entertaining, if not the stuff of legends.

The film narrative carries on after the trauma of Hansel and Gretel in the candy house in the woods.  Rather than return to a remorseful father and a deceased wicked (step)mother, the two children come away with the lesson that the only ones they can trust in the world are each other.  They go on to make a career out of protecting other children by hunting and slaying witches in pre-industrial Germany.  And they're pretty darn successful at it, until they come up upon a particularly difficult quarry--a grand witch, who seems to be methodically kidnapping children for a sinister plot that goes beyond mere snacking.

In the anachronistic style made popular by movies like Van Helsing and Brothers Grimm, the siblings carry modernized weapons, wear suspiciously hip-looking clothes, speak in generic American English, and basically hold with all the values and norms of twenty-first century westerners.  The film's makers, rather than try take it seriously, threw themselves into the irony of it all and made it over-the-top bloody, fast-paced, and humorously ridiculous.  

"Try to look moody."

It worked well.  Like I said, I don't think I was bored for a moment.  And while I guessed at the plot mysteries pretty easily, I commend them for keeping it neat and tidy, without trying to philosophize or leaving loose ends.

In the end, despite all the showy explosions and corny one-liners, the emotional core of the German fairy tale is intact: the reality of evil, the dangers of the wood, the resourcefulness of children, and the lesson that things are not always what they seem.

A grand fairy tale adaptation this is not.  So don't watch Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters if you're a purist and tend to outrage.  But it is in good fun.  And that was, after all, a big part of what fairy tales were meant for.

(For a more traditional dip into the Grimm tales, Cate at Something to Read for the Train is going systematically through the complete tales of the Brothers Grimm and reviewing them here.  I'm excited.  So go check it out!)



  1. One of my co-workers watched and loved this movie after accidentally renting "Hansel and Gretel Get Baked" first. Apparently that one didn't come with high recommendations... (hahahaha...)
    -The Neglected Husband

    1. Yeah, I have not desire to see Hansel and Gretel Get Baked. :p


Don't be shy. Leave a comment!