Movie Review: Snow White and the Huntsman

Chris Hemsworth and Kristen Stewart

By Kimberly Gadette (doddleNEWS)

In the contest between last spring’s Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman, who’s the fairest of them all? Surprisingly, it’s a tie … they’re both rife with rotten apples.

While the two films are visually engrossing, they suffer equally at the hand of the directors who end up bungling their respective missions. Flat and unfunny in the first, ponderous in the second, perhaps the failure can be blamed on some wicked spell cast by the original Evil Queen herself. Or maybe it’s Walt Disney, working his juju from beyond the grave, determined that no future film ever upstage his iconic, first full-length cel animated feature, the 1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Whatever the explanation … the 2012 renditions of Snow White & Co. are a bust.

First-time helmer Rupert Sanders, a multiple award winner in his career as a commercial director, apparently has no idea how to sculpt a feature, nor how to direct actors. Charlize Theron as the Evil Queen Ravenna comes off as a tiresome, unstable shrew, paranoid and unhappy, her eyes often filling with tears as she throws one tantrum after another. You’d think she might have a moment of triumph every now and then, considering how many kingdoms she’s supposedly conquered. Kristen Stewart as Snow White appears highly self-conscious, seemingly trying her best to fill the hundreds of close-ups on her face with some kind of specificity – a task that’s impossible to do, since she has very little dialogue to, um, bite into. And Chris Hemsworth as the titular Huntsman occasionally, inadvertently reveals his obvious boredom … witness the look on his face as he’s transporting Snow White’s bier.

Charlize Theron as the Evil Queen Ravenna

The plot stays fairly close to the fairy tale, except in this version Snow White escapes to the Dark Forest voluntarily in order to flee her imminent death. The Huntsman doesn’t escort her, assigned to cut out her heart but, rather, has been ordered by the Queen to capture her. As the liquid gold mirror explains to the Queen, if she ingests the girl’s beating heart, then beauty and immortality are hers. As in Mirror Mirror, Snow White will have to learn to fight in order to take back what’s hers.

The script is credited to three screenwriters, including the veteran John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil). And yet, idiocy abounds. When Snow White initially flees from the castle, desperate to outrun the Queen’s army that’s hot in pursuit, a white horse just so happens to be lolling around with nothing to do. When the Huntsman – so Thor-like, he can take on gangs of adversaries without breaking a sweat – fights with the Queen’s weak, incest-y, albino-esque brother, the Huntsman almost loses the battle. And when the Queen, an über murderess who exhibits no hesitance in killing any and everything in her way, locks up Snow White rather than destroying her, we get no explanation. While it’s necessary to the story that Snow White lives, given the Queen’s disposition to slay first, ask questions later, a mumbled explanation is sorely needed. (It’s not until Snow White matures that the Queen learns that the girl’s heart is an anti-aging must-have.) As for the titular duo on the run, the Huntsman often treats Snow White as if they’re sparring in a good-humored action-based rom-com, with funny asides to the fact that she’s nothing but trouble. But given her grave reactions, the jokiness doesn’t work. He’s in one kind of film; she’s in another.

It seems that Sanders can successfully create scenes in which horses gallop in slo-mo through various landscapes, and does well when he can rely on his special effects artists (filling the screen with such visual fantastics as obsidian shards, trees turning into trolls, and the Queen reconstituting herself as a whirling dervish of ravens). But subtract the CGI, and the film frequently grinds to a halt. And so we suffer through such tedium as a dwarf yowling multiple verses of a tuneless dirge long into the night; or an aching meander through the “Sanctuary” (a Middle-earth type garden of Eden with mini Gollum-like elves emerging from the innards of birds and bunnies), or the Queen taking a milk bath, treated with such grave importance, you’d think the fate of all humankind was at stake.

Not even film veterans Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins and Ray Winstone (playing three of the seven dwarfs, their size altered due to prosthetics and photographic trickery) can rescue this overblown yet underwhelming tale.

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Rating on a scale of 5 Grumpy and Sleepy reactions: 2

Release date: June 1, 2012
Directed by: Rupert Sanders
Screenplay by: Evan Daugherty and John Lee Hancock and Hossein Amini
Screen story by: Evan Daugherty
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth, Sam Claflin, Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, Toby Jones
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 127 minutes

About Kimberly Gadette

Film critic Kimberly Gadette, born and raised in movie-centric L.A., believes celluloid may very well be a part of her DNA. Having received her BA and MFA from UCLA's School of Theater, Film & Television, she spent many of her formative years as an actress (film, tv, commercials, stage) before she literally changed perspective, finding a whole new POV from the other side of the camera. You can find her last 450+ reviews on Rotten Tomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/kimberly-gadette/). Other than taking the occasional side trip to Cannes or Sundance, you can find her at the movies ... sitting in the dark as usual.

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