'Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters': What are the reviews saying?

'Hansel' has had a troubled production history and is an admittedly out-there twist on an old fairy tale. How are critics liking the film?

David Appleby/Paramount Pictures/AP
'Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters' stars Jeremy Renner (r.) and Gemma Arterton (l.) as the titular siblings.

Fairy tales are still hot commodities in Hollywood, which is undoubtedly one of the reasons behind a new film starring Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton, "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters." In the new spin on the story, Hansel and Gretel are all grown up and harboring a grudge against witches like the one who took them captive and was planning to eat them (seriously, fairy tales are way more grim than you remember).

The two siblings are protected from witches' curses, making them uniquely qualified to take on those who are causing problems. They work as bounty hunters who take care of witchy problems, and in this particular story, Hansel and Gretel take on a group of them led by lead witch Muriel (Famke Janssen).

"Hansel" has experienced a somewhat troubled production history, with its release date originally scheduled for March of last year. It was then moved up to earlier this month, Jan. 11, and then switched again to Jan. 25. A statement from the movie’s studio, Paramount, suggested that the second change took place to enable the movie to be released in IMAX.

“The Imax experience continues to be the most immersive and entertaining way to see films and we are thrilled to be releasing Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters 3D now in late January so moviegoers have an opportunity to see the film in this way,” Paramount president of domestic marketing and distribution Megan Colligan told the Hollywood Reporter.

The movie was not screened for critics before its official release, and so far, the reviews that have been posted have been lukewarm.

David Voigt of Examiner.com said the movie has its entertaining moments but falls flat at other times.

"Hardly a movie that will ever run the risk of being taken with a completely straight face, this... is a film that has some fun gonzo moments appropriate with the genre, but ones that are also fairly restrained and doesn't do nearly far enough," Voigt wrote. "Heavy on the effects and the set pieces, it moves along at a fair enough pace but there are longs stretches where the film feels re-written and often drab."

The Hollywood Reporter's Stephen Farber said the movie should bring in the crowds who know they'll enjoy a campy action movie but that others won't find much to like.

"Lots of anachronisms and tongue-in-cheek dialogue establish the spoofy nature of this violent venture," he wrote. "All that’s missing is a genuine sense of wit... Despite its few wry jokes, the script is awfully thin."

Other critics were even less complimentary.

"High-concept pitch or no, the movie doesn’t really work," Roger Moore of the McClatchy-Tribune News Service wrote in a review that appeared in the Seattle Times. "Writer-director Tommy Wirkola focuses on the fights and flings all manner of viscera at the 3D camera as limbs are whacked off and heads and torsos explode. Less attention was paid to the story and the dialogue."

Leah Rozen of The Wrap called the movie "a bloody grimm mess" in her headline.

"[The movie is] a squashed-together mess that tries to cram too many different types of movies into one... The best thing one can say about the resulting film is that it's 88 minutes long and that its stars, Jeremy Renner ("The Hurt Locker") and Gemma Arterton ("Tamara Drewe"), have done and will again do far better work," she wrote.

Despite its reviews, box office pundits are predicting that "Hansel" may have a good opening weekend because of the lack of competition. Box Office Mojo writer Ray Subers predicted the film would take the number-one slot.

"The main factor here is whether or not audiences are intrigued by the premise," he wrote, citing a $15.1 million opener for the similarly-themed film "The Brothers Grimm" and $16.3 million for "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter."

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