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Ten Word or Less Review : Holy crap this didn’t suck…much!

The age of the revisionist fairy tale is in full swing and Hollywood is determined to leave no old fabled left unmolested.  Most of these endeavors, Alice in Wonderland, Oz: The Great and Powerful, Jack the Giant Slayer, are turned into CGI baby food for the family movie crowd to digest without effort or concern.  Grotesque amounts of money are dumped into paper thin stories and the simple morals of these elderly fables are drawn out so far that they crush under the weight.  The minds behind Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters have blessedly avoided such pedantic and misguided ambitions.  Their twisted fairy tale is barely 90 minutes long and it gleefully strives for it’s well deserved R-rating.  Horror, gore and blood are what H&G invests in and while calling it ‘good’ is out of the question, it is unabashedly fun.

H&G doesn’t have much of a story to dwell on.  There’s a tragic back story of a sort you’ve seen before.  <cough, cough, Sleepy Hollow, cough, cough>  The title siblings, Hansel, played with a begrudgingly shitty attitude by Jeremy Renner, and Gretel, played with less resentment by Gemma Arterton, roam the unspecified Eastern European landscape attempting to rid the world of witches.  Really, Renner seems mad to be here.  After two Oscar nominations and sitting at the Mission: Impossible, Avengers and Bourne tables he seems genuinely pissed to be slumming it in these waters.   The adventure at hand takes them to a town where children are being abducted by a witch (Famke Janssen) hoping to sacrifice them and make her flammable, stick riding kind impervious to fire.  On paper none of this sounds the least bit remarkable, practically a retread of Terry Gilliam’s sour tasting Brothers Grimm, but in execution H&G is executed with a kind of B-movie glee bigger productions seem too terrified to embrace.  Maybe being released to theaters by the skin of your teeth is a blessing in disguise.

I have no idea what year H&G is supposed to take place, (17th century?) but Norwegian director Tommy Wirkola quickly lets it be known that he intends to fart in the face of anything resembling historical accuracy.  Rapid fire cross bows, shotguns, machine guns, explosives, record players, it’s all fair game.  They should have just let go completely and had someone wield an ipod made out of sticks and squirrel entrails.  But more than the anachronistic weaponry, H&G revels in unabashed gore.  Wirkola’s style is more akin to Sam Raimi before the $200 millions budgets rotted his brain.  When go to movie asshole Peter Stormare (Brothers Grimm again!) gets his head squashed via a giant troll’s foot, you have to respect the splatterific effort on display.  Considering the frequency with which people get popped, squished and dismembered in H&G, one might be tempted to think that watermelon hating comedian Gallagher directed the movie.  Wirkola also doesn’t over cut or use any damned shakeycam when shooting action.  A schlocky action movie that doesn’t adhere to the ADD aesthetic so many others feel is mandatory should always generate at least a small amount of respect.  And though there’s some liberal use of middling quality CGI, Wirkola knows not to put such humdrum effects front and center.  The guy likes his physical effects and camera tricks, cheesy though many of them may be.  The psychotically violent and all ‘guy in a suit’ Edward the Troll looks like a refuge from 80’s fantasies like Legend or Neverending Story.  Delightful.

Hansel & Gretel doesn’t deserve any kind of shiny award for being trashy.  As fun as it is it is still junk food cinema and you won’t respect yourself much when its through.  But when compared to what passes for trash these days it at least deserves a hearty pat on the back.  Or as the makers of this flick might prefer, a club through the brain complete with brain matter on the walls.  Kudos guys.  Good luck with a sequel and good luck getting Renner to not be so pissed about it.



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