CONTAINS SPOILERS AND SILLINESS
Is it a comedy? Is it a spoof? Is it supposed to be funny? The presence of non-comedic actors like Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton and Famke Janssen, and the BBFC's 15 certificate for "strong bloody violence and gore" suggests that it's a straight horror movie, but it doesn't come across that way. In fact the biggest hint as to why this reinterpretation of the classic Grimm fairytale completely fails to work might lie in the production credit afforded to one Will Ferrell, leading one to speculate whether this was originally conceived as a Ferrell vehicle in which he would play Hansel as a pompous buffoon who constantly talks nonsense, bashes his head on things and falls over. That might, in the end, have made for a better, or at least less awful, film than the supposed comedy horror romp we've ended up with.
As per the original, two kids are abandoned in the forest and end up in the gingerbread house, but they overcome the witch and burn her in the oven. Years later, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters are the scourge of Bavarian witches, ridding towns of child-snatching hags for a price. In Augsberg, their home town, they're hired by the mayor to find eleven missing children before the blood moon sabbath, against the wishes of the local idiot sheriff (Peter Stormare, enjoying himself), who's more of a burn-first, ask-questions-later type.
Not in any particular order: first off, the 3D is rubbish. It doesn't need to be there, half the movie wasn't shot that way and it's only been pasted in so they can chuck CGI stuff at the camera and then charge you extra. Since half the movie takes place in forests at night, the image is dark to start with and the glasses and polariser make it darker still. Secondly, what's the idea with lines like "You've gotta be f***ing kidding!"? I've no problem with injoke quotes to great films like The Thing, within reason, but modern colloquialisms don't fit with the established period setting of the film - and casual swearing even less so. It jars and feels out of place. Third, precisely who is this aimed at? It's obviously too bloody and horrific for anyone under ten, but surely anyone over that age isn't going to be interested because it's Hansel And Gretel. At least kids could get into 12A fairytale reimaginings like Snow White And The Huntsman and Red Riding Hood (albeit accompanied)!
So what you're left with is something that doesn't fit any measurable demographic (except for star fans), which doesn't work as a comedy and yet can't possibly be intended seriously, and which looks ugly through the unnecessary 3D. I much preferred The Brothers Grimm as a riff on old fairytales, despite not being much of a Terry Gilliam fan and despite everyone else in the world hating it. And it's not as much sleazy fun as Tommy Wirkola's zombie Nazi schlocker Dead Snow either. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters isn't the worst thing you've ever seen; it's certainly not bad enough to get angry about, it's just nowhere near good enough to get excited about. And when a film's actively making you wish that Will Ferrell was in it, something gone very badly awry.