Friday, September 13, 2013

Review: Hansel and Gretel: Warriors of Witchcraft

Meet Fivel and Booboo Stewart, lead protagonists of Hansel and Gretel: Warriors of Witchcraft. Fivel wants to be a screechy pop star, and performs the closing credits song. Booboo was born with an unfortunate condition that makes him look like every sullen '90s teen ever. (Yes, Fivel's the girl and Booboo's the boy. Don't ask me.) Wikipedia suggests one or both of them are actors, though judging by their commitment on-screen, the twins themselves could take it or leave it.

And David DeCoteau has a plan for them.

Historians of shitty film (I almost said "shitty film historians" but that would be imprecise) will look back on 2013 as the Year of Hansel and Gretel—or perhaps the Year of Scraping the Bottom of the Fantasy-Adaptations-Not-Claimed-by-Disney Barrel. 2013 has seen four films come out (so far!) about the fairy-tale duo, and it looks like none of them are any good. This is the first one I've seen, mainly because the Renner one isn't on Instant yet and this one shares its director with A Talking Cat!?! Yes, the aforementioned DeCoteau brings all of his impressive directorial apathy to the fairy tale, with the slight caveat that this movie has almost nothing to do with the Grimm story or characters, and a lot more to do with stealing a little bit from Buffy while trying to cash in on Twilight (a franchise Booboo Stewart apparently appeared in).

I'm giving H&G:WoW the same star score as ATC!?!, but let me be crystal clear: this one is far more competent. But then, so was Monster a-Go Go.

Dull, slow, and predictable, H&G:WoW suffers most noticeably from the energy-leaching singularities that are our leads, Fivel and Booboo. But each of them has their moments of apparent effort, and they're young, so if we're going to assign blame to anyone—and you know we are—then it has to be DeCoteau.

The most riffable element of this movie is its constant, constant re-uses of the same establishing shots in between scenes. Fivel and Booboo, you see, start out at Generic High School, but Booboo's penchant for getting into fights (he's troubled, as evidenced by his Silverchair hair) gets them kicked out. They then go to Magical Private Academy That Looks Like a Retirement Home, but here's the kicker: the campus-encompassing establishing shots are exactly the same as they were at Generic High.

It doesn't end there, either. In some scenes, but mostly in establishing shots, H&G:WoW has extras. This would be a real achievement over A Talking Cat!?! and its cast of six, except that nobody bothered to diversify these shots either. You will become very well acquainted with Walking Fro Guy, Large Purse Girl, "Undefeated" Shirt Guy, and most of all: The Two Talking Girls.

Their repeated, mysterious appearances—and the fact that they often coincided with Big Plot Points—convinced me that the Two Talking Girls are the real masterminds of the evil that threatens Magical Private Academy. And because the film ends on what feels very like an effort at setting up a TV series (presumably on ABC Family or some Disney thing), my theory is that the Two Talking Girls will loom over at least the first two seasons, invincible and inscrutable, like younger and more marketable versions of the Cigarette Smoking Man.

I think I just had more fun in those last few paragraphs than anyone can while actually watching this thing. The performances are not quite terrible enough to laugh at (except the 8th Grade English Class narration, of which there are two occurrences, then the movie wisely forgets about it). I personally gleaned some amusement from the fact that every single character in this movie looks like they just stepped out of a time machine from the '90s. The only indications of modernity are the shape of the cell phones and the contemporary video look.

I suppose I should mention that Eric Roberts is in this, too. (How a member of the David DeCoteau stable of actors wound up in The Dark Knight, I can't guess.) Roberts' role is also slightly amusing inasmuch as he spends nearly the entire movie lurking around corners and watching young people talk. Too bad there's a reason for this, and too bad it's easily guessable, otherwise that stylistic choice may have been more worthy of pointing and laughing.

Viewers of this film will find some diversion in assorted other weirdness—such as the fireplace emblazoned with a sentence that I can't begin to parse, or Fivel's amusingly incompetent costume changes. I'd call Hansel and Gretel: Warriors of Witchcraft one of those that's not very fun to riff, but also not quite too painful to watch (but damn close). Ultimately it's just kind of sad.

Star Score: 0.5 out of 5

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