Jeremy Renner … Hansel
Gemma Arterton … Gretel
Famke Janssen … Muriel
Pihla Viitala … Mina
Derek Mears … Edward
Robin Atkin Downes … Edward (voice)
Ingrid Bolsø Berdal … Horned Witch
Joanna Kulig … Red Haired Witch
Thomas Mann … Ben
Peter Stormare … Sheriff Berringer
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|Distributor||Paramount Pictures Corporation|
“Classic tale new twist”
The popularity of “monster mash-ups” in literature has inspired a trend of revised fairy tales for modern audiences. “Hansel and Gretel” is the latest—an ultra-violent, sometimes profane film, both aware of its absurdities and dedicated to making the most of them.
It’s been years since gun-toting siblings Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) were lured into a witch’s house and nearly eaten. Now, they roam the old country dispatching witches wherever they’re found.
When children mysteriously begin to disappear in one village, the team is summoned. Their arrival coincides with the suspicion of witchcraft falling on Mina (Pihla Viitala), whom Hansel believes is innocent. Roaming about in the wood unearths a coven of witches, with a dastardly plot involving sacrifices on the blood moon, led by Muriel (Famke Janssen). Worse, she has a plan for Gretel that none of them anticipate, forcing Hansel, a local farm boy, and even a soft-hearted troll to go on a rescue mission.
Fans of films such as “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” will find a lot to enjoy in this campy, big-screen horror-comedy. It knows not to take itself too seriously and simply allows its cast to have fun. Some of its gags are almost too obvious (such as “have you seen this missing child?” labels appearing on milk bottles), and the plot isn’t the best (various twists and turns you can see coming), but it’s still entertaining. It never professes to be a masterpiece or even particularly memorable. Renner and Arterton have wonderful chemistry together as siblings, wholly devoted to one another’s safety, and the minor characters (the hero-worshiping Ben, and the lovable troll “Edward”) are truly wonderful.
Content-wise, there’s scattered brutal violence throughout; it’s not frequent, but it’s always bloody. Witches are pummeled, blown up, shot full of holes, and explode into chunks. One has her head cut off with a shovel. A troll bashes people about and stomps one man’s head, which splits like a ripe melon. There are a half dozen f-words. A woman disrobes to swim in the nude with Hansel (we see her fully nude backside and, briefly, her bare breasts); it’s implied through polite conversation later that she and Hansel slept together. Ben sponges off Gretel’s face and neck; when he gets too close to her cleavage, she wakes up.
Two things in particular may disconcert Christian audiences: the witchcraft and the level of violence toward women. Gretel is a very tough girl; she nearly bites a man’s nose off and head-butts him on another occasion. He has his thugs beat her near nearly unconscious. And, although Hansel gets his fair share of being knocked around, Gretel bears the brunt of the violence. Since all witches are female, it’s women being blasted into bits, kicked through roofs, pummeled with weaponry, and beheaded.
Different kinds of witchcraft are explored, which are reminiscent of “Wicca” (supposed “good” magic) and “Witchcraft”; one is evil and used by the villains to bring about terrible magic (the witches believe by sacrificing a dozen children under the blood moon and carving out a “white witch’s heart,” they can become immortal); the other is a “white witch” (a “good” witch, whose powers are not used for evil). This plot point becomes very important in the second half, when we unearth three “white witches.” As Christians, we know that any form of witchcraft is expressly forbidden by God, and there is no such thing as “white magic.”
“Hansel and Gretel” is an engaging story with some good messages about heroism and sacrificial love. Unfortunately, there’s also brief nudity, profane language, a lot of gore, and confusing messages about the occult.
Violence: Extreme / Profanity: Heavy—OMG (1),“hell” (7), “damn” (2), “mother-f*****,” f-words, s-words, “b*tch,” “whore” / Sex/Nudity: Heavy—cleavage, female in sleep shirt (showing lots of leg), male shirtless, nude swimming (with implied sex), female full breast nudity and full rear nudity
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.