DVD Release Date: June 11, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: January 25, 2013
Rating: R for strong fantasy horror violence and gore, brief sexuality/nudity and language
Genre: Horror
Run Time: 88 min.
Director: Tommy Wirkola
Actors: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, Pihla Viitala, Peter Storemare, Thomas Mann, Derek Mears

Remember when new spins on classic fairy tales were the province of The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle? Ah, the good old days. More recently, Shrek, Hoodwinked! and other animated fare have taken up twists on beloved fairy tales, giving the tales often witty, sometimes crass spins that weren’t serious enough to qualify for anything more than a PG rating.

Now we have big-budget action star Jeremy Renner (The Avengers) and Gemma Arterton (Prince of Persia) starring as a live-action Hansel and Gretel, and this time it’s not just the fairy tale that gets fractured. No, our fearless brother-and-sister duo learned at a young age that witches don’t die easily (remember the story about how the siblings turned the table on the witch who kidnapped them as children?). They are now full-time witch hunters, and that can mean only one thing: There will be blood. Bones will be broken, blood splattered and innards spilled all over the screen.

If that combination sounds like a silly idea, there’s good reason. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is executive produced by comedian Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, the team that brought you Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby and The Other Guys. But whereas McKay was involved in writing for those other films, the script for Hansel & Gretel is from director Tommy Wirkola and Dante Harper, neither of whom has many screenwriting credits.

Their lack of experience as writers shows in Hansel & Gretel, which never settles on a consistent tone for its story, and which substitutes lots of quick-cut action for story and character development.

A prologue reminds us of how the young Hansel and Gretel ended up at a witch’s house in the woods, and how the witch ended up in an oven. In voiceover we hear the grown Hansel (Renner) dole out the two lessons he learned from that experience:

1. Never walk into a house made of candy.
2. If you’re going to kill a witch, burn her.

Years after they absorbed that instruction, the brother and sister team are in the business of killing witches—and business is good. They’re called upon by a town that’s had a rash of missing children, so they enlist Hansel and Gretel to traverse the woods to find out if witches are behind the disappearances. Following along is a young, aspiring witch hunter Ben (Thomas Mann, Fun Size), and, eventually, a gentle troll named Edward.