Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is not the worst movie I’ve ever seen. But it is an assault on the senses, an overly loud blast of static that at times—I am not making this up—left me seeing double. Viewing the film in IMAX 3D was less an experience than an endurance test. Even at a scant 88 minutes, one would be excused for leaving the auditorium feeling nauseous and close to exhaustion.
The plot asks a question never asked before: What happened to Hansel and Gretel—the brother-sister duo abandoned by their father in the woods who burned to death the witch that tried to eat them—after "happily ever after"? The movie’s answer is that the pair decided to put their experience to work exterminating the world’s apparently endless supply of witches.
Working as bounty hunters and traveling from village to village to eradicate the broomstick brigade, Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) have stumbled on to a mystery. Why are the witches they are hunting this time around taking children so brazenly? And how will Hansel and Gretel stop the head witch (Famke Janssen), a powerful crone who is able to appear fully human?
The picture is not without charm, and gives off an occasional flash of ingenuity, such as when Hansel complains that being force-fed candy led to his needing shots every few hours lest he become lightheaded. It makes sense that Hansel would grow up to be diabetic. The repartee between brother and sister is also occasionally amusing. Arterton and Renner are well suited for their respective roles.
What few flashes of joy there are, however, are badly bludgeoned by the film’s bellowing score, shoddily created 3D effect, and chopped-together editing.
Perhaps my nausea was a function of the multiplex IMAX in which I saw Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, but the sound was nevertheless overwhelming, and almost earsplitting.
A vibrating cranium may also explain why the visuals often seemed so poorly done. The 3D effect, which was achieved in post-production so the studio could cash in on 3D surcharges, frequently went in and out of focus. And it was occasionally blurry, which combined with the fast-paced nature of the frequent action sequences led to double vision and headache. If one is tempted to see this film, avoid 3D at all costs.
Adding to the picture’s woes is a plot that seems like it was cobbled together at the last minute. Subplots are briefly touched-upon and then abandoned with haste.
Basic incongruities stack up. One example: For some unexplained reason the magic of dark witches fails to work against light witches and their offspring until the final sequence when, for some, unexplained reason, it suddenly does work.
While Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters never falls into the trap of taking itself too seriously (a major problem with the similarly titled, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter), the movie fails to live up to its admittedly meager promise. Substituting commotion for cleverness, this is one better suited for cable than the theater.