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Is the New “Snow White” Too Dark and Grim?

June 1, 2012

We’re experiencing a veritable pop-culture Snow-storm: One of the TV season’s biggest new hits was ABC’s Once Upon A Time, an updated storybook starring Snow White and Prince Charming. Julia Roberts and Lily Collins recently took another bite of the poison apple in the unintentionally laughable Mirror, Mirror. Now Twilight‘s Kristen Stewart and Chris “Thor” Hemsworth aim to live happily ever after—and get Medeival on some asses—in the stylish, supercharged Snow White and the Huntsman. The question is: Which of these fairytales is the fairest of them all?

The answer is SWatH, but not because of Snow White. Stewart seems miscast in the role—she was clearly added to try and lure in Twi-Hards—and not just because her hair looks brown, not jet black, for most of the film. (That may be because she’s covered in mud.) She’s a slack-jawed dullard until she—SPOILER ALERT!—dies and gets a much-needed bath. Then she comes back in black, and death becomes her (as does chainmail, the Huntsman wisely notes). She finally seems like a threat to the drop-dead gorgeous Charlize Theron, who disembowels her every scene as the Evil Queen. And I mean that as a compliment.

Theron is so deliciously over-the-top, the movie sags in the middle when she’s left to wait in the castle as Hemsworth’s aptly dashing Huntsman, Snow and the dwarves—distractingly played by miniaturized regular-size actors like Ian McShane, Toby Jones and Bob Hoskins (who truly embodies Pauline Kael’s infamous description of him as “a testicle on legs”)—get lost in the Dark Woods. You could easily lose 20 minutes of SWatH‘s flabby 127-minute running time. Whenever Theron’s on screen, however, the movie’s magically revivified. Forget Aileen Wournos—her Evil Queen is the real Monster. And I wouldn’t be shocked if Theron snags another Oscar nod for the role.

Still, SWatH‘s real star is first-time director Rupert Sanders, whose visuals are genuinely eye-popping, even if the movie blessedly isn’t in 3D. There’s a scene featured in the trailer with Theron bathing herself in a thick white liquid that should immediately be lifted for one of those “Milk does a body good” campaigns. He gets a big assist from the gorgeous costumes by three-time Oscar-winner Colleen Atwood (Alice in Wonderland, Memoirs of a Geisha, Chicago) and eight-time nominated composer James Newton Howard, whose pounding score helps make the movie a thrillingly visceral experience. A word of warning to parents, however: The battle scenes and monsters are surprisingly intense and scary. This is not a film for the Disney Princess crowd. Or the Hunger Games crowd, for that matter.

Brotherly-sisterly love

There’s even a hint of incest between the Evil Queen and her brother Finn, creepily well-played by The Hurt Locker vet Sam Spruell, who sports the scariest haircut since Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men—and bears an eerie resemblance to Angelina Jolie’s real-life bro, James Haven. Jolie will soon play the titular evil queen in Disney’s Maleficent, a live-action retelling of Sleeping Beauty. You better work some serious black magic, Angie; after Theron’s tour de supernatural force, you’ve got an awfully big pair of slippers to fill.

Did Snow White and the Huntsman hit the target for you? Take aim with a comment!

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  1. Thanks for this review. I have been wanting to see this ONLY because of Theron, and you’ve confirmed for me that she lives up to all the hype in my head. She’s an amazing actress, but I worried Stewart would drag the whole shooting match into an abysmal miasma of suck. Now I want to see it reeeeally bad . . .

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