Have Some Candy, Motherfucker!

Gingerbread houses blow up nice when you're this cool

                           Gingerbread houses blow up nice when you’re this cool

If there were any justice in the world, people would realize what a piece of daring and progressive work Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters truly is. It doesn’t just add delirious action scenes or a plethora of weapons straight out of a steampunk arsenal, to a culturally ingrained story. Instead, it takes the classic tale of parental abandonment and stranger-danger/too many sweets admonishment and extrapolates it into a fairly tale for young adults that’s tasty as a gingerbread house spiked with Jack Daniels.

Surely we must recognize the genius of turning Johannes “Hansel” into the archetypal brave and handsome “prince,” played with cool confidence and a snicker of wit by The Avenger’s Jeremy Renner. Due to a shared trauma involving a misunderstanding with the homicidal resident of an edible abode, he bonds with his sister, Margaret aka “Gretel,” and instead of running off to save princesses, locks away his sugar-coated PTSD and channels his rage into killing every witch in the land.

And Gretel, rather then dissuade her brother on his eternal quest for vengeance, stays by his side and transforms herself into an equally adept witch killer with no intention of ever needing rescue from any imaginary “Knight in shining armor.” Gemma Arterton (known most widely perhaps for her brief roles as the tongue-in-cheekly named “Agent Strawberry Fields” from Quantum Of Solace) makes her all business and no play, except when it comes to beating the tar out of witches. Even still, her face looks just as pretty when she’s smiling as when she head butting the snivelingly stubborn sheriff played by Peter Stormare.

Gretel is amused by their fan Ben's (Thomas Mann) book of their past deeds, while Hansel probably just wants him to stop hitting on his sister.

Gretel is amused by their fan Ben’s (Thomas Mann) book of their past deeds, while Hansel probably just wishes he’d stop hitting on his sister.

The film’s deliciously anachronistic humor and curses gives the actors a post-modern feel, as though they just stepped off the set of an R-rated action comedy and got lost on the set with no breadcrumbs to lead them back. Luckily this keeps things from becoming too overbearing, since the witches encountered look like grotesquely creative demons escaped from a dark re-telling of Macbeth. The baddest of these sisters is played by Famke Jansson, whose wonderfully pointed face is perfectly suited for the witches pallor. She glides around on a piece of pine wood like a medieval fighter jet, and takes great glee in making a man eat his weight in bugs before making him explode all over our intrepid hunters.

Famke Janssen goes from pretty, to pretty terrifying in two seconds flat.

Famke Janssen goes from pretty, to pretty ugly in two seconds flat.

The film’s commitment to keeping its character’s trait’s and language present day (Hansel, for instance, requires insulin injections from a needle, a consequence of the candy at the witches house) juxtaposed with the magic and lore of the fairy tale world is a useful premise. Thanks to this, it’s both possible to enjoy it as a straight story of familial relations, and a parody of the primitive times the original tale was set in.

Nearly every convention present in the film corresponds with a modern trope, easily recognizable and yet entertaining. How can we not, when they include an obsessive fan of Gretel who she catches trying to dab at her buxom chest with a wash cloth after awaking from an unconscious state? Or when an accused witch that Hansel saves later entreats him to take a dip in a pool of water with her? Hansel & Gretel comes courtesy of Will Ferrel’s production company, and thus carries a playfully unorthodox tone that makes it feel as though it’s the movie itself and not the actors winking at us.

Probably one of the coolest production logos in the biz

Probably one of the coolest production logos in the biz

As a film this works perfectly, entertaining us with scenes of action and creative use of the fairy tale mythos, but as a product of our culture it is both illuminating and subtly progressive. That Gretel is not made a petty love interest, and that the siblings devotion is by the end of the film remains most prominently on each other is evidence of gender-equality not often seen in film’s of it’s ilk. Perhaps the film’s ultimate message is that only by facing the shriveled crone of old-fashioned values that hides within the sickly sweet cottage of society, can we stand together and walk away from the experience not as traumatized children, but equally capable and badass adults.

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