Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)

(Netflix Streaming, April 2015)  Call it encroaching old age, but I’m getting a bit tired of mashups combining historical references with monsters.  Whether those monsters are zombies, vampires, robots or (in this case) witches, and whether those familiar references are fairytales, established genres, historical figures or classic fiction, the result often doesn’t have anything to offer but a blend of buzzwords.  Pride and Prejudice and ZombiesAbraham Lincoln: Vampire HunterJack the Giant Killer!  The concept becomes the crutch, and once you’ve grown accustomed to buzzword blending, there’s often nothing beyond the high-concept.  All of which to say that Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is nothing more than what it says in its title (ie; grown-up fairy-tale heroes become witch hunters… I told you it was the title), and that it doesn’t do much with its own premise.  There is a bizarre mixture of high comedy (most absurdly a reference to a missing kid picture on a milk carton) and low horror that never quite solidifies into something meaningful.  Many of the action sequences repeat themselves, and the occasionally-good visuals doesn’t excuse the film’s overall tedium.  What’s too bad is that I quite like Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton, but neither have much to do here aside from running and shooting.  (Famke Janssen does seem to have fun playing pure evil, though.)  The script is weak and contrived –especially when it comes to the heroes going back to their childhood home and discovering that their backstory means something in the current moment.  While the martial anachronisms can be amusing, most notably by providing Big Guns to dark-ages heroes, the film doesn’t quite seem to know what to do with the assets at its disposal.  The problem with Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters isn’t its premise; it’s that it’s just its premise.

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