Produced by Will Ferrell's company, you can't be blamed for thinking that 'Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters', update on the famous fairy tale of the brother and sister, who escaped the clutches of a witch by burning her up in an oven, would be a straight comedy. The film does contain its fair share of laughs, but coupled with the director's style, which seems anchored by the notion that there's enough blood in any scene, the movie ends up being a disjointed mess.
The story, which is sprinkled liberally with anachronisms and gizmos, begins with the young siblings being led into the woods by their father and deserted there together. The two, naturally, stumble into a cottage made of candy, where a ghastly witch imprisons them.
They figure out early on how to kill a witch - you need to burn her. And as they save their own lives, they begin a career as witch hunters. Their latest assignment is from the mayor of Augsburg - Figure out who is kidnapping local children.
Jeremy Renner (“The Bourne Legacy”) is a great actor, and he gives his Hansel character such a tongue-in-cheek approach that you can’t help but like him. Gemma Arterton (“Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time”) is his resourceful, no-nonsense sister Gretel. Both carry high-powered weaponry (for the period in which this is set, that is) and are expert shots. She carries a sort of automatic crossbow and he carries a kind of arm cannon.
There are no surprises, unless you count the troll, as this is a straightforward exercise of pursuit and deduction with the siblings figuring out that the lost children are being prepared for a rite to be performed on the night of the blood moon. That night, all the witches in attendance will be rendered fireproof, something the head of the coven, Muriel (Famke Janssen), wants desperately to see happen.
The film takes many stabs at humor along the way. Hansel is a diabetic, as he has been hooked on sugar since his first encounter with the witch's house made of candy, while woodcut portraits of the missing children attached to bottles of milk can't help but make you laugh. Don't even bring up the odd variety of witches seen during the film's climax. The Siamese twins who can kill you with their ninja moves have to be seen to be believed.
The film is like pollen in the spring - all over the place, and doesn't do anyone much good. Renner and Arterton are good sports throughout, playing things straight in a film they must have had reservations about, while Janssen is perfectly cast, bringing the right combination of menace and sexiness to the role. She admitted in a recent interview that the only reason she took the part was to pay for a new kitchen.
If I can say anything positive about “Hansel & Gretel” it’s that it at least looks cool. The action scenes are pure visual spectacle.