August 06, 2013

Mexican Vacation Day 4: Goodbye Tulum, Hello HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS


"Whatever you do, don't eat the fuckin' candy."
After our late night tortuga adventure, we awoke to find our clothes partially dry and our shoes still soaking wet.  But there was no time to let them dry out, ad this was the day we were scheduled to check out of our hotel in Tulum and drive about two hours north to the city of Chichen Itza, where we'd have the chance to see ancient Mayan ruins and dive in underground cave lakes called cenotes.  Since we had another two days for all that, we were really in no hurry to leave Tulum, whose beautiful beaches and cheap, tasty food had totally won us over.  So after we checked out of our hotel we returned to Diamante K, the secluded beach from the previous day, for a few more hours of lying in hammocks and diving in the waves, which had now grown so big that they knocked the aviators I bought on our honeymoon clear off my head.  I actually managed to spot them on the sea floor and almost retrieved them before another wave churned up the silt and they vanished.

After leaving the beach we drove back through town for one last local meal at a seafood place called El Captian's, where Jamie had fish tacos and I had a whole fried fish.  The carnovore in me loves the idea of having the entire animal sitting right there on my plate, but fish have so many small bones that I feel like I always end up leaving a lot of meat on the plate.  That might be more perception than reality, but either way it's goddamn delicious.

We made a quick stop for gelato (Bailey's for me, lime basil for Jamie) and a brief but fruitless search for new sunglasses before finally hitting the road for Chichen Itza.  It was a complicated series of directions that involved a lot of resetting the odometer at specific intervals, but a few rounds of 20 Questions later we pulled into the Mayaland Resort, a sprawling estate adjacent to the ancient ruins, which had long since closed by the time we arrived.  We checked into our room, drank some delicious hibiscus flavored beverages, then moved down to the bar for drinks and a late snack.  We immediately started chatting with the only other couple at the bar, a pair of newlyweds from San Francisco who sucked us into watching a Discovery Channel show on the bar TV called Naked And Afraid, in which two strangers with survival training are dropped into a remote jungle location with no food, no water, no clothes and one object of their choosing (e.g. machete, matches, goggles) and they have to survive for 21 days.  I still can't believe that this is a real show that airs on television, except yes I totally fucking can.

Eventually we made it back to our room and threw on Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, a movie that is stupid and fun and bloody and also stupid.

"What kind of stupid," you ask?  The kind of stupid where Gretel has an automatic double barreled crossbow and Hansel has diabetes because the witch made him eat too much candy as a kid.  And let's not forget Edward, the soft spoken troll with a penchant for crushing dudes' heads with his bare hands.

There's a lot of really awesome, gory violence to be had and it's the only thing that keeps the movie even vaguely interesting for most of its running time.  The actual plot is simplistic and dumb beyond measure with few real surprises.  Jeremy Renner is basically on automatic pilot while Gemma Arterton is making a real effort to finally pop for American audiences.  Famke Janssen is fine but spends about 80% of her scenes under almost unrecognizable make-up, as do most of the witches.  But there are some amusing flourishes there - a giant witch jamboree at the end features lots of hilarious witch designs including Old Chinese Lady Witch, Dwarf Witch and Conjoined Twin Witch(es), most of whom get cut down by the hunters' crazy modern weaponry, like a tripod-mounted gattling gun or Hansel's ornate blunderbuss.  At one point a character asks where their arsenal comes from and the question is summarily ignored.  In a way, that moment sums up the whole movie: reasonable explanations are unimportant so long as something looks "TOTALLY FUCKING COOL."  That model has certainly worked in the past, but the ratio of "cool" to boring and/or idiotic is woefully unbalanced here.

I'm still fascinated by the movie's origins though.  It started as an outright comedy, a premise that I kind of loved when I first heard it.  Aside from the continued presence of Will Ferrell and Adam McKay as producers, you'd never know about the film's alternative roots, although it feels like some of those initial comedy elements managed to sneak their way into the finished product, stuff like the heroes' propensity for fuck-laden one liners or the fact that Hansel suffers from Wilford Brimley's disease.  That shit is seriously hilarious, especially considering he has to take an insulin injection whenever his watch alarm goes off or he'll die, seemingly in a matter of minutes.  Like I said, HILARIOUS.

If the idea of fairy tale children as grown-up, gun-toting badasses appeals to you, then there's plenty of entertainment value to find here.  If that all sounds really moronic, then nothing in this movie is gonna change your mind.  I will say this much: the movie ends with a clear sequel setup and I kind of hope that movie really happens.  But that's mostly because I want to see more of Edward the troll.

That guy fucking rocks.


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Title: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
Director: Tommy Wirkola
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, Derek Mears, Thomas Mann, Peter Stormare
Year Of Release: 2013
Viewing Method: Redbox DVD