'Red Riding Hood,' 'Mirror Mirror' and 'Snow White and the Huntsman' - fairy-tale reworkings are fast become as synonymous with big-screen disaster as the dreaded video-game adaptation. Now, despite an impressive cast, 'Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters' is the latest turkey to suggest that the classic works of the Brothers Grimm are perhaps best left alone.
Indeed, other than cashing in on the familiarity of the title, it's not clear why Tommy Wirkola, who first came to attention with the enjoyably trashy Norwegian zombie horror, 'Dead Snow,' opted for the whole Hansel & Gretel angle in the first place.
The whole traditional edible house fable is done and dusted within the first two minutes. Whilst following the 20-year jump forward, only a brief return to the siblings' family home and a rare clever line about insulin and a childhood sugar overdose really alludes to their candy-eating past.
Instead, the mercilessly brief action flick focuses on a grown-up Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) and their mission to rescue several children who have been abducted by a plague of witches in the German city of Augsburg in preparation for a sacrificial ritual named Blood Moon.
So we get several clumsily-edited fights between our heroes and the admittedly gruesome witches, an obtrusive crunching nu-metal soundtrack that appears to have escaped from the early 00s and a series of lame one-liners that almost makes Arnie's Mr. Freeze appear a bastion of wit.
Quite why Renner and Arterton signed up for such nonsense is anyone's guess. The former is so expressionless as a bounty hunter attempting to avenge his parents' death that it's hard to believe he's been nominated for an Oscar, not once but twice. While following 'Prince of Persia,' the latter wastes her opportunity to show she can do more than the whole damsel in distress routine with an equally disinterested performance.
There are a couple of saving graces. Famke Janssen, the only cast member who appears to be enjoying herself, is good value as the powerful grand witch Muriel, there are a few decent bursts of blood and gore, particularly the tavern explosion scene, whilst giant troll Edward is an impressive display of animatronics.
But like last year's similarly-themed 'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,' 'Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters' is undeniably one of those films that appears far more fun on paper than it is in reality.