Monday, July 8, 2013

A Tail of Two Fairy Tales: Hansel & Gretel:Witch Hunters and Hansel & Gretel Get Baked Reviewed

A Tail of Two Fairy Tales

Reviews of "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters" and "Hansel & Gretel Get Baked"

One thing is for sure when and if you sit down to watch either of these movies: You are going to get exactly what the title implies. With "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters" you will view a version of this story which features the siblings as witch killers. With "Hansel & Gretel Get Baked," you will view the siblings smoking weed. They are fairly straightforward, however they are both full of surprises. Those surprises I feel may not be for the better though.

Let's start with "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters," as out of the two movies, this one is the most popular. And I am not sure how well it lived up to that popularity. As "Witch Hunters" opens, we see Hansel and Gretel as children, being taken to a candy house. Hansel is forced to eat candy from a witch who plans to murder Gretel, until she gets free and the siblings kill the witch. From that point on, they vow to find and exterminate every witch, by any means necessary.

Once they grow up, they've been hunting witches for awhile, and they get a gig in a town to find a particular group of witches who have been kidnapping several children. Turns out this group of witches have some very bad plans for the town. 

At first, this seems like a very fun, yet grim little action movie. There are some crazy cool fight scenes in the movie. But also at the same time, some really grim stuff. Out of any movie based on a fairy tale, this is closer to the original written tales. When "The Three Little Pigs" was first written, when the Wolf blows down the first two pigs homes, he eats them. Then when the Wolf goes to the brick house, the third pig not only defeats the Wolf but eats him. And in turn eats his two brothers. And yes, that is all in the original texts, our classic "fairy tales" were not for kids by today's standards.

But in "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters," the balance between fun and grim is wildly off-balance. It seems like writer and director  Tommy Wirkola had no idea what type of movie he wanted to make. At one point we view Hansel and Gretel beating up witches and spouting one-liners. Then at another point, we view witches killing and eating children, a child forced to murder his mother and a near-rape scene. I get that this is an R-rated tale, but so was "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," and the latter worked because it could mesh fun and blood in equal measure. "Witch Hunters" wants to be fun and quirky, but also shocking and serious, and those  themes don't mesh well in this movie.

The cast includes Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen and Peter Stormare. The actors do what they can, and they try to make it matter. This cast however, would have shined brighter in a better written movie. The make-up design for the witches is truly menacing, and the special effects are pretty good. But again, those efforts seem wasted on a movie that has no idea what its even about. When I found out that Will Ferrell and Adam McKay (director of "Achorman") were producing this, I figured I'd get a fun, slightly funny rendition of the old fairy tale. Instead I got a movie that was both confused and miscalculated, and that disappointed me the most.

"Hansel & Gretel Get Baked" suffers from many of the same problems "Witch Hunters" does. It is completely dumbfounded by what type of movie it wants to be. When I first looked at the at the title, I figured I'd get a slapstick crazy attempt at the story. Something in the vein of "Sharktapus" or "Piranha" where the acting is poor and the story silly. Again, that's not exactly what "Hansel & Gretel Get Baked" is.

The film takes place in present day, and Gretel (Molly Quinn) is in her bedroom with her boyfriend (Joe Ordaz) smoking weed. Hansel (Michael Welch) comes home and finds them and jokes about breaking the news to their parents (who happen to be out of town visiting the Rumpelstiltskin's, giggle, giggle.) When they run out of weed, the boyfriend brings up an old lady who has some of the best cannabis. He offers to go pick some up and never returns. So they go out looking for him, only to find that the old woman (Lara Flynn Boyle) is a witch who sells a magical cannabis which lures people to her home so that she can eat them and keep her youth.

Now, that premise seems like it could muster some decent laughs. But my problem with "Hansel & Gretel Get Baked" is that I did not laugh once. I barely cracked a smile during its entire running time. Within the first half hour, the film turns into a geeky slasher film with violence that seems very out-of-place. After awhile, I had to check I was watching the movie I thought I was. Because most deaths featured in this film seem like they were ripped off from the "Saw" franchise. 

This film was made with a very low budget, so the acting is incredibly bland. There are no real effects, or any plausible character development. The thing is, I expected that going in. What I couldn't stand was that the filmmakers didn't even try to make this funny. What they really wanted to do was make a stupid slasher film that would be unappetizing to even the biggest of horror fans. And that is just sad all around.

At the end of the day, the film that hurt the most to me was "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters." So much money, effort and production power went into the creation of that film and the result is both befuddling and depressing. I never once expected "Hansel & Gretel Get Baked" to feature anything resembling merit, I also didn't think it would suck as hard as it did, but that's a different story. "Witch Hunters" had all the makings to be somewhat fun, and the end result isn't worth anyone's pretty penny.


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