Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth team up as the title characters to take down an evil witch played by an icy-cold Charlize Theron. Are you planning to see this film? If you've already seen it, please share your mini review!
Movie, movie on the wall, who’s the lamest of them all? In “Snow White and the Huntsman” that distinction is pretty much up for grabs. A slumming Charlize Theron certainly does her part, channeling Joan Crawford via Faye Dunaway as the wire-hanger-hating wicked queen; as does the thespian-challenged himbo, Chris Hemsworth, channeling Sean Connery via Fat Bastard as the Huntsman, an ax-wielding brute with a burr. But if pressed, most would agree the rightful ruler is Kristen Stewart, channeling Bella Swan via Sinead O’Connor as the passive-aggressive Snow, a Goth maiden who’s been anointed, “Narnia”-style, as the patron saint of femme power. All hail, Snow! You go, girl!
If this were a political ad instead of a summer blockbuster, Mitt Romney would appear beside the end credits informing us that he approves of this non-secular, anti-feminist message. Yes, progressives, Hollywood is up to its old hypocritical tricks, trying to pass off a petulant slacker – a certified freeloading member of Occupy Castle Tower – as a role model for strong women everywhere. Or, at least a far more palatable alternative to Theron’s man-eating gold-digger, who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to plunge a few daggers to get it. But even she is slavish to the idea that if you’re a woman, youth and looks are everything. She also has the nasty habit of preying on other females, sucking the life force out of them to remain forever young. Why can’t she pick on a weak man or two, like her effete brother (Sam Spruell), the runner-up in an Andy Warhol look-alike contest? Or the equally effete Prince William (Sam Claflin), the not-so-arch archer, sporting more lip gloss than his childhood flame, the lightly driven Snow?
The mere thought of this makes the Hollywood suits shield their crotches and squirm. Which, translated, means we’re stuck with two-plus hours of girl-on-girl violence, abetted by angry dwarfs and a handful of men, including the Huntsman, eagerly agreeing to follow Snow’s lead, although she has no discernible plans for overthrowing a monarchy based on witchcraft (Christine O’Donnell, your broom has come in!) and sorcery. Oh, yes, and lots of swirling glass shards courtesy of first-time helmer Rupert Sanders, a former advertising hack who enlightens us on what a movie would look like if “Mad Men’s” Pete Campbell were seated in the director’s chair.
Politics and stereotypes aside, “Snow White and the Huntsman” remains a movie at war with itself. Its aesthetics are breathtaking, albeit cribbed from other – much better – flicks ranging from “Lord of the Rings” and “Narnia” to “Pan’s Labyrinth” and the original “Snow White” from Walt Disney. But the piece is utterly abysmal in the acting and writing departments. Yes, there are times when it’s so awful it’s funny, but mostly it’s just plain dull. And much of the blame for that rests with Stewart, who remains one of the least charismatic actresses working today. In Stewart’s flawless olive skin, Snow is just a cypher devoid of personality and moxie. Instead of taking hold of her destiny, she stands on the sidelines watching, hoping things will play out to her advantage. They do, of course, but only because the host of writers deem it so. In real life, a girl like Snow would be chewed up and spat out by anyone who came in contact with her.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Theron, whose mere presence commands attention. But without an experienced director brave enough to tell the Oscar-winner when to say when, she chews the scenery at a rate so voracious you can’t help recalling Faye Dunaway’s shameless vamping in “Mommie Dearest.” Still, I’ll take Theron over the far-less-fair Stewart any day. I’d take them both, though, over Hemsworth, aka Thor, the hands down worst actor currently on screen. Take away his bodacious bod and impossible good looks, and what do you have? He can’t even generate a spark of chemistry opposite Stewart. But neither can Claflin as the third side of an obtuse love triangle no doubt perpetuated to engage the TwiHards.
Seldom has the acting craft sustained such a beating, a flaw exacerbated by Stewart’s intermittent stabs at an English accent and Hemsworth’s inexplicable deployment of an atrocious Scottish burr. What’s up with that? And what’s up with all the meticulously applied makeup and perfectly coifed hair? This is the Middle Ages, people; a time when humans rarely bathed and nary a face wasn’t caked with some sort of grime. Even the forest-dwelling dwarfs – played by the likes of Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan and Toby Jones (all reduced in stature in more ways than one) – always look crisp and fresh after battling slithering snakes and abominable beasts.
If only the storytelling were this clean and polished. Then we might have had a “Snow White” with some oomph. It still would have been embarrassingly sexist, but at least it would have been more Grimm than grim.
SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN (PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief sensuality.) Cast includes Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron and Chris Hemsworth. Directed by Rupert Sanders. 2 stars out of 4.