January has not been the best month for movies. So far, no film has managed to wow the crowds. Even the new movies “Parker”, “Movie 43” and “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” failed to make a splash. “Hansel and Gretel” opened to a meager six million dollars on opening day and only five hundred thousand for midnight showings. So far, none of them have received positive reviews. It seems the midwinter slump will continue until February when “Warm Bodies”, “Identity Thief” and “A Good Day to Die Hard” come out. “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” is by no means a great film. At best, it’s subpar. While it seems innocent enough as is, this is not the fairy tale children love. Instead it is a dark story of two children abandoned in the woods, blame witches and devote their life to killing witches. It’s fairly straight forward with a few twists thrown in to make it more interesting. However, it becomes a strange mix of modern and ancient that doesn’t quite come across as pleasing. It is set in Augsburg, Germany, a city that is plagued by abductions and witches. The first ten minutes of the movie seem like the actual fairy tale. Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) are taken deep into the woods and abandoned by their father. They wander through the forest until they discover a house made of candy. When no one answer the door, hunger overtakes them and they begin to eat the sweets. A witch takes them in, forcing Hansel to eat in order to fatten him up. Gretel attacks the witch, who in turn, hurls a fireball at her. The children realize that they are immune to her powers and manage to stuff her in the oven. An unspecified amount of time passes before the audience rejoins the witch hunting duo in their journey in Augsburg. Several children have been kidnapped and a young woman named Mina is being accused of witchcraft. Mina is spared but Sheriff Berringer (Peter Stomare) hires his own four man team to find the witches. He quickly learns he’s in over his head when three of them are killed and the fourth one returns only to explode in the tavern as a warning. The Candy Witch is captured and interrogated in the town’s jail. She reveals that the children, six boys and six girls, are needed in order to complete a ritual during the Blood Moon. They are in need of one last girl. Muriel (Famke Janssen), who could be considered the head witch, attacks the town, frees the Candy Witch and leaves with a warning to Gretel. Hansel grabs onto the Candy Witch’s broom and is taken deep into the forest where he is discovered by Mina on the following morning. Local boy Ben (Thomas Mann) tends to Gretel after her ordeal and helps point her in the right direction since she does not know where her brother is. While searching for him, she is assaulted by Berringer’s men. She is to be arrested for luring the witch into the village. The attack stops when a troll named Edward viciously kills them men to save her. When asked why he rescued her, he replies “Trolls serve witches.” The implication is that she herself is a witch. She is reunited with Hansel in a decrepit house, which they realize is their own. To their horror, they also discover a witch’s lair underneath. Muriel shows up, telling them the story of their past. She reveals that their mother was a powerful white witch, which is why they are immune to magic. Muriel also tells them that she needs the heart of a white witch in order to complete the ritual. Gretel is abducted and Hansel once again wakes up to find Mina. She admits that she too is a witch, but not a dark one. She is a white witch and can help him defeat the others. Hansel recruits her and Ben to disrupt the ritual and save the children. Mina casts a spell on the weapons to bless them and they set up traps made from piano wire in the forest. The spell allows Hansel to use his guns on the witches and kills them. Edward defies Muriel and frees Gretel. However, he is thrown over a cliff. The ceremony is ruined as the sun rises. The remaining witches are shredded by the wire but Ben manages to shoot Muriel. Hansel and Gretel have a final confrontation with her, ultimately decapitating her. The film ends with the siblings collecting their money and going on yet another adventure. This time, young Ben and Edward the troll have joined them. So far “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” has opened to abysmal reviews. Critics are panning it as overdone, horribly written and full of gore. All of it is true. The script was juvenile at best, laced with strong words. None of the actors were strong enough to be memorable. It is clear that Jeremy Renner is meant to be the leading man in this story, but he just doesn’t cut it. He makes a valiant effort, but comes off as disinterested. Gemma Arterton tries to be a heroine, but she ends up being the damsel in distress too many times. Neither of them seems to function properly when the other one isn’t present. It is even rumored that Famke Janssen took the role only because she needed the money. The film suffered from too much emphasis being placed on the special effects and action instead of the actual plot. It is made painfully clear that the director, Tommy Wirkola, wanted this to be experienced in 3D as many of the shots look strange in the 2D format. There is also a very strange “Twilight”-esque feel to the overall product. The trademark sweeping shows of forests are abundant throughout and there are several characters who are reminiscent of characters from the Stephanie Meyer franchise. While fairy tales, witches and the supernatural are very trendy in Hollywood, this one felt more like it borrowed elements from several places then tried to call itself cohesive. Gretel also came of as a Bella Swan wannabe. She tries to do the right thing, but is unable to do so without the help of a male influence. “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” did not fare will with audiences, so there wasn’t much hope for this one. Therein lays the big question, “Is it worth seeing?” Yes, it is a terrible film. It’s predictable, poorly acted and can’t tell the present from the past. However, it comes off as a wonderful comedy. Audiences will get a giggle over a troll named Edward and there are a few jokes scattered in there. It’s not for everyone, so those who do not like blood, gore, nudity or unnecessary uses of the f-word, skip this one. Even though it’s based on a fairy tale, this is not a children’s movie. Do not take the little ones to see this. It is worth a look, but wait until it hits the dollar theater. It’s quirky and different, so there’s a possibility it will gain a cult following. “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” is rated R for language, nudity, sexuality and excessive blood and gore.
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