Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, two lolly-loving siblings swear like sailors, a giant troll is sweet on one of them, the other has diabetes and a coven of cackling witches party like extras from True Blood.
Welcome to this warped reworking of the brothers Grimm famous fairytale Hansel and Gretel. It's clearly the worst film of 2013 so far and perhaps the dumbest and fakest looking film since Red Riding Hood or Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
There's no happily ever after, during or before this mercifully short 88 minutes of hunting witches, who seem to have stolen their cheap and tacky get-ups from the villains on Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
Don't get me wrong. I enjoy a good mash-up of classic tales and trashy genre films. They can be both wonderfully entertaining and intellectually rewarding. But the key word is "good".
And while the idea behind Tommy Wirkola's re-rendering is promising - Hansel and Gretel grow up to be badass witch hunters for hire - the execution is more muddled, tedious and cheap than giddy, campy fun.
It astutely starts, however, when the fairytale ends. Hey, we all know how the tale goes. Having escaped the candy house in the forest, the now-grown Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) are highly skilled and well-armed witch hunters.
Got a witch problem? Who ya gonna call? "Witch hunters!"
With a coven of witches stealing the children of one particular town, our leather-clad siblings are called in to clean house but discover the problem could be closer to home than they thought.
Though it is set in Bavaria, Renner and Arterton don't even bother to hide their American and English accents respectively. And as the wicked head witch, Famke Janssen looks more like a mummified zombie (or is that a zombified mummy?) and behaves like one of the flying monkeys from The Wizard of Oz. Janssen has even admitted she did Hansel and Gretel to pay off her mortgage. It may be the only good thing to come of this wretched, artless waste.
The biggest problem, however, is that it's been delayed so long now it feels dead on arrival - like the many mod-goth-looking witches that inhabit it. It was shot before Renner made The Bourne Legacy and The Avengers, just as his star was rising. Now it's here after his star is assured, it seems woefully and hilariously dated.
The one element that works is the giant troll named Edward. He's a completely CG creation and starts out as H&G's foe, smashing faces and stomping on the head of the sheriff (Peter Stormare) with a comically gory splat. But, as his heart melts for Gretel, the big softy starts to show more emotion than his flesh-and- blood companions.
In fact, director Tommy Wirkola is the real witch here. He wants you to feel smart by deconstructing his embellished fairytale but shows only contempt for the material.
He tries to rework the fairytale into a splattery comic romp but fails to find the right tone. He also misses his target audience, making it too graphic for tykes and too tedious for teens. Dead Snow, his earlier horror/comedy about nazi zombies, is far superior.
Indeed, Wirkola's last-minute attempt to set up a sequel would have the brothers Grimm spinning in their graves. Now, a spin-off about a lovelorn head-stomping troll named Edward? I'd hunt that one down.
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