Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters Directed by: Tommy Wirkola Cast: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen Running Time: 1 hr 28 mins Rating: R Release Date: January 25, 2013
PLOT: It's a twist on the children's fairy tale. Hansel (Renner) and Gretel (Arterton) are now grown up bounty hunters who track and kill witches. Something called the Blood Moon could spell danger, while also revealing the past.
WHO'S IT FOR? Do you need some blood, some f-bombs, and some somewhat familiar tales from your childhood? If so, you've come to the right place.
It sounds like a good idea, right? Even more than the Snow White films (Snow White and the Huntsman and Mirror Mirror) this makes sense. After all, what would you do if you escaped a witch when you were little? It would probably mess with you for quite a while. Might as well dedicate your life to killing the things that scared you to (almost) death.
So why is Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters so hit and miss? Actually, a better title would be Hit & Miss: Witch Hunters, but then again, that would be truth in advertising.
The film lacks cleverness. It tries to make up for it in exploding witches, expletives, and a good-looking cast. It doesn't. Instead we're left with a series of two people hitting witches, missing the witches, having the witches run (or fly) away, and then hitting the witches again. You see? Hit & Miss.
This is about as close as Jeremy Renner has come to a "new" idea in quite a while. He's the guy who joins a franchise already in progress. Mission Impossible, The Avengers, and Bourne Legacy all benefited from Renner to some degree. I don't feel like his Hansel character is fully figured out. There are moments when we are supposed to learn from our character. He has a chance to show us when he's drunk, when he's fighting, and when he has a beautiful woman thrust upon him. I didn't get any real sense of what makes him tick. Even the film's sense of humor, giving him a serious case of diabetes from the witch who forced candy down his young throat, doesn't gets the correct tone down for a proper laugh. Gretel is barely better. I guess she's thinker of the duo, but Arterton mainly benefits from looking the part. She reminded me of Jennifer Garner in the days of "Alias." She's less forgettable than when she was in Clash of the Titans and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.
All of this would be fine if the mission was fun or truly exciting. Chasing witches sounds good, but just not these witches. Led by Janssen as Muriel, the witches look, sound and act stupid. They have moments of quiet attacks, and also giant displays of power, yet there is nothing truly scary about them. The special effects and makeup just aren't wokring. Eventually the story gets white witches, dark witches, hearts and trolls involved, as well as a familiar Harry Potter-parents side plot, but it all feels like going through the motions.
Between the action, which definitely moves the movie along, and finally has some cool gadgets at the end, the dialogue drags. "The witches are planning something big," is all the excitement the script musters. While the idea of giving fairy tale stars Hansel and Gretel the R-rated bloody adult treatment sounds like a good idea to me, it turns out it's only good in theory. The film is just hit and miss.
FINAL SCORE: 5/10