Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters movie review: The dark arts in 3D

Jan 25, 2013 at 9:00 a.m. ET

In this reimagining of the classic fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel aren’t your average Grimm waifs. Jeremy Renner’s Hansel carries a giant gun and gets naked with a white witch while Gemma Arterton’s Gretel head-butts and shoots a crossbow. Yeah, they’re tough — but killing witches ain’t easy, especially in 3D.

Hansel and Gretel

3 Stars: Perfect for those who like their fairy tales dark

The film starts in familiar territory with Hansel and Gretel as the helpless children we all know, who are abandoned by their mother and father in the woods in what seems like the cruelest betrayal a child could experience. Upon finding a cabin made of candy delights, they enter only to be caged by an evil witch who tries to fatten the kids up before she eats them.

In the original tale, the kids outwit the witch and burn her in the oven. Here, it seems as if there’s more to this brother and sister duo than meets the eye. Try as she might, the candy-witch’s powers don’t work on Gretel, which is a good thing.

Years later, a grown Hansel and Gretel (Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton) are professional witch hunters, traveling from village to village in the German countryside, ridding the town of nasty she-devils. But Gretel has recurring nightmares about her mother that may reveal a powerful secret her mother was hiding from her children.

Hansel and Gretel

When they reach the town of Augsburg, they are faced with a new problem. Eleven children have gone missing and it becomes Hansel and Gretel’s job to find them. Bro and sis determine that the local witches are preparing for the feast of the blood moon, where they plan to sacrifice 12 children. Hansel and Gretel

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is at its best when it indulges in a bit of campy fun. Produced by Will Ferrell, it’s easy to see how clever anachronistic jokes made their way into the script. Things like glass milk bottles with drawings of the missing children and a wind-up stun gun that also doubles a heart defibrillator add to the fun of this 21st century take on a creepy 19th century story. It’s unclear however, why Hansel has “sugar sickness” and has to give himself daily injections, for what must be diabetes.

Hansel and Gretel

The costumes are cool leather and lace and Renner is super hot when he takes off his clothes to bathe in some healing waters with Mina (Pihla Viitala), a good witch. Famke Jannsen plays Muriel, the queen bitch-witch with a seductive evil intensity.

Bottom line: This isn’t a movie for kids. It’s rated R, mostly for violence but uses 3D well. You’ll enjoy munching popcorn while watching bodies explode, heads getting torn off, and projectiles racing toward your face.

Run time is 1 hour, 40 minutes. There are some fun 3D graphics during the credits, but no extra scenes.

Photo credit: Paramount