Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters Review: A Boomstick Without Any Boom

By Dustin Rowles | Film | January 25, 2013 | Comments ()

By Dustin Rowles | Film | January 25, 2013 |

The problems are many, least of which is the barely existent script, which follows Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) as they attempt to put down a coven of witches who have stolen the children of a small town with the intent to sacrifice them under a once-in-a-generation blood moon, making themselves invincible to fire. In their way are Hansel and Gretel, who have an arsenal of weapons and a mysterious background: Their parents disappeared when they were young, leaving them to fend for themselves in the forrest where they came upon a gingerbread house and nearly found themselves inside a witch's oven. With the exception of the town McCarthyite (Peter Stormare), who accuses anyone with a pulse of witchcraft, a helpful troll (Derek Mears), and a good witch with whom Hansel has a crush, there's very little in the screenplay to even elevate it to bare bones. It's like a femur and a mandible, Gemma Arterton's cleavage, and a lot of action sequences.

That wouldn't be to Hansel and Gretel's detriment if the action sequences were spirited instead of limp, if more attempts were made to inject one-liners appropriate to the film's tone, or if Jeremy Renner, in any way, could provide a capable comedic presence. Unfortunately, anyone who has seen Renner's stint as host of "Saturday Night Live" knows that Renner doesn't have it in him: He's tone deaf. He doesn't have the timing or the swagger to pull off the role of comedic bad-ass. He's like an accountant with a shotgun and a leather jacket, a guy who had his sense of humor surgically removed by dramatic directors. Meanwhile, Arterton doesn't fare much better, although at least she has low-cut outfits to distract us from the fact that she's completely out of her element. Even the ever-capable Famke Janssen, a natural fit as the Witch Queen, is muted by Wirkola's floundering, ineffectual direction.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters simply doesn't work. It not only fails as a competent film, it can't even get so-bad-it's-good right. I wouldn't describe it as a completely miserable experience because Arteron and Renner are decent gun-toting eye candy, but it never comes close to achieving the massive orgy of guns, grins, and witch-killing so many of us were hoping would be on display. The bullets fly in Hansel and Gretel, but they never zip.

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