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Movies, dining and things to do / Spokane and North Idaho

Nothing Grimm about this ‘Hansel & Gretel’

Even in the midst of the 15th Spokane Intrernational Film Festival, I took time to take in a mainstream flick called "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters." Following is the review I wrote for Spokane Public Radio.

Dear Will Ferrell.

I hope you don’t mind my addressing this letter to you. I wanted to contact one of the producers of the film “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters,” and it turns out there are five of you – not to mention two associate producers, one co-producer and one executive producer. How do you Hollywood people manage to keep things straight? I mean, really, who does what to whom – if you know what I mean. And what, exactly, IS a best boy?

To be honest, I didn’t even know you were involved with the film until I checked the Internet Movie Database and saw your name. And what the hey, I’d wasted the better part of an afternoon earlier this week watching, for the second time, your remake of “Land of the Lost.” So, I thought, synchronicity. You know?

Anyway, I feel the need to make a few, ummmm, comments. One involves that title: “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters?” Really? Couldn’t you have come up with something just a tad more original? Last summer we were watching “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.” And next month we’re supposed to see “Jack the Giant Slayer.” What’s next, “Nancy Drew: Zombie Stomper”? “Charlie Brown: Werewolf Waylayer”?

Also, what’s with that half-baked script? IMDB lists the Norwegian-born director Tommy Wirkola as writer AND director. But with all the money that was spent on special effects – which were fabulous, don’t get me wrong – couldn’t a few bucks have been used to hire someone to do a minor script clean-up?

For one example, what’s with Peter Stormare’s character? Remember him, Sheriff Berringer? When we first see him, he’s so intent on burning a woman he calls a witch we’re certain that he’s going to be one of the movie’s major players. Besides, we’re talking about Peter Stormare, the psycho from “Fargo.” But all he does is get his nose smashed and then half bitten off by Gretel. And just when you think he’s going to make some sort of impact on the overall film … well, think of a bug hitting the windshield. You get the picture.

For another, what’s with all the blows that characters take to the head? Gemma Arerton, who plays Gretel, is a beautiful woman. Yet she takes so many fists to her face that she should have started to look like the Elephant Man. Not to mention, like an aging pro football player, suffering the effects of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. She’s not the only one, either. The same thing happens to Jeremy Renner, who plays Hansel, and poor Famke Janssen, who plays the baddest of the bad witches. And yeah, I know, this isn’t real life. This is the movies. But the cliché remains true: Sometimes less really is more.

In fact, that spirit of judiciousness could have been applied to ALL the film’s so-called “fantasy violence,” which is ample and – along with a brief nude scene – is no doubt what was responsible for the R rating.

Here’s the main thing: You are a comedian and, despite your performance in that lame “Bewitched” remake, one of today’s funniest film stars. So why didn’t you make sure that the script for “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” had a few laughs.

Intentional ones, I mean.