Steven Spielberg and his jaunty little apologue about the 16th President of the United States aside, it’s no longer enough in movies for an historical figure or literary character to do simple stuff like abolish slavery or find a man of intelligence and character. Abraham Lincoln is reduced to slaying vampires. Elizabeth Bennet is stuck fighting off zombies. And Hansel and Gretel can’t just kill off one cannibalistic witch and call it a day: In Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, they’ve grown up to become bounty hunters who must roam the land, kicking gnarly witch butt. Actually, according to this assertively revisionist reading of the Brothers Grimm, young Hansel and Gretel were led into the woods by their parents for a very good reason, having to do with the naked ambition of a very bad witch, Muriel (Famke Janssen). As it turns out, the grown versions of Hansel and Gretel, now celebrity witch hunters—they’re played by Gemma Arterton and Jeremy Renner—have been brought to a small village to find the crone who’s been snatching the local children, and damned if it isn’t Muriel herself, accompanied by a whole coven of evildoing uglies in makeup left over from The Devil’s Rain. There’s actually no pleasure at all to be had in this humorless Hansel & Gretel, which was directed by Tommy Wirkola, whose previous credits include the 2009 Nazi-zombie horror comedy Dead Snow. But there is a truly intriguing mystery here: What on Earth are Renner and Arterton doing in this godforsaken thing?
Tommy WirkolaGemma Arterton, Jeremy Renner, Famke Janssen, Thomas Mann, Peter Stormare, Zoe Bell, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Derek Mears, Monique Ganderton, Pihla Viitala, Ingrid Bolsø BerdalTommy Wirkola, Dante HarperWill Ferrell, Beau Flynn, Chris Henchy, Adam McKay, Kevin J. MessickParamount Pictures/MGM