One of the first scenes in Hansel & Gretel perfectly encapsulates the tone of the movie you're about to watch. In a small, "fairy tale era" town, a dastardly sheriff is about to execute an accused witch. Then Hansel and Gretel arrive with machine guns and crossbows and various other anachronistic gadgets. Gretel holds a gun to the sheriff's head and forces him to let the innocent woman go. "OK you fucking hillbillies," she says. "We're gonna save this town." Whether you like this movie depends on whether you think that scene is funny.
I, for one, thought it was hilarious. And I laughed all the way through to the end, though I'm not sure I was supposed to do that. Hansel & Gretel, a bizarrely updated twist on the fairy tale, is the perfect example of a movie that is both intentionally and unintentionally funny at the same time.
This is a flick veritably bursting with ridiculousness, from "ye olde newspaper headlines" that illustrate the movie's opening credits — "Hansel and Gretel slay swamp witch!" — to the ridiculous subplot about a geek who draws fan art of Gretel and collects every story about the witch-busting pair in a big, leather-bound volume. Hansel is diabetic because he overdosed on all that sugar the witch made him eat when he was a kid (expect "I need my injection to regain my strength" shenanigans). Gretel is a badass who has a steampunk taser to go with her crossbow. There's also a punk rock witch who looks like Kelly Osborne, a good white witch who dips Hansel in "healing waters" so that we can see Jeremy Renner naked, and LOT of punching with tree branches. Plus Famke Jenssen as the Baddest Witch Ever schools you in how to really phone a performance in.
The plot is pretty simple. The mayor of the hillbilly town has asked Hansel and Gretel to investigate a series of kidnappings — kids have been disappearing from all over the region. It turns out that there's some kind of blood moon ritual that all the local witches are prepping for, and of course the super siblings have to stop it. The action is frenetic, the continuity is goofy, and the lore feels like it was conceived by three stoners with a box of tinker toys. Doing witchcraft rots your teeth. The worst spell ever involves eating worms and exploding. Witches apparently LOVE to strangle people.
Everything builds to a seriously ridiculous but lovable climax with a giant witch party that looks like something out of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Again, I'm not sure if it was deliberately silly — but I was giggling uncontrollably.
If you're looking for a serious reinterpretation of the Hansel and Gretel story, this movie isn't going to cut it. Even the "dark" bits where the siblings try to figure out why their father left them alone in the woods are plain ridiculous. But if you want to laugh your ass off and see some witchslapping, it's the perfect thing. Gemma Arterton as Gretel is particularly adept at chewing the scenery in the most awesome way possible. What I'm saying is that you should turn your brain off and mainline some fairytale this weekend.