Harvey Critic - 01/06


When Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm penned their fairy tales, they did so because of their interest in keeping Germanic mythology alive with all of its violence. When they discovered the popularity of their stories among youths, they felt a need to tone down the mayhem. Maybe kids in the 19th century were full of sweetness, light and innocence, but given the tough nature of our current crop of America's future, we should be happy that director Rupert Sanders, using Evan Daugherty and John Lee Hancock's screenplay, is not a sissy like the Grimm brothers. He has the cojones to play up the filth, hatred, and warfare of the Snow White legend, a revisionist treatment with action in an alternative, medieval universe (actually filmed in the UK's Pembrokeshire near the village of Marloes). The castle is computer generated, set on nearby Gateholm island.

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Universal Pictures

Reviewed for Arizona Reporter by Harvey Karten

Grade: B
Director: Rupert Sanders
Screenwriter: Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock
Cast: Charlize Theron, Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Sam Claflin, Sam Spruell, Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone
Screened at: AMC Lincoln Square, NYC, 5/29/12
Opens: June 1, 2012

'Snow White and the Huntsman' is anchored by an all-too-serious performance from Charlize Theron as the evil Queen Ravenna, who not only kills the king during their first night in bed but keeps the princess and legitimate heir to the throne, Snow White (Kristen Stewart "The Twilight Saga") imprisoned until she overcomes the queen's loyal brother and escapes. What's more, like Count Dracula, Ravenna feeds on the blood of her congregation not because her stomach is growling but because this is the way she keeps her youth. Could this be the filmmakers' snide commentary about plastic surgery? The female members of the queen's followers, a Dickensian lumpenproletariat, had all inflicted gashes on their face to avoid being fair maidens, fodder for the queen's love of eating their hearts out.

The famous mirror is no wimpy decoration in the plush castle but when asked by the queen "who is the fairest of them all" oozes viscous, black liquid and turns into an almost human shape with a resonant voice proclaiming what was true as of that moment. The mirror later demurs and states that the Princess Snow White is now the fairest (as for me, I'll borrow Boris the Animal's opinion in "MIB3," who said "Let's agree to disagree").

Rupert Sanders, who comes out of the world of commercials and X-Box games, throws in both romance and action with emphasis on the latter, providing the all-too-common fast editing when the men in armor meet their foes. There's the usual use of bows and arrows, but nothing beats the queen's imaginative powers in employing the use of hundreds of crows in a Hitchcockian attempt to defeat the enemy but also an assortment of nails that turn into almost human form.

Symbols that are in the Grimm tales-the white snow representing the princess' purity and the drops of blood to stand in for her coming of age-are utilized but not made much of, though in the land of the fairies a couple of refugees from "Lord of the Rings" spring up, a white horse just waiting for the princess ro ride, and a stag with more branches coming out of his head then a Redwood tree.

Thor, er Eric the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth), starts off as an ally of the queen but is quickly turned around by the princess, whom he tutors in the Art of War-so much so that the lessons save her life. Top performance from Hemsworth.

The chief problem with the picture is its total lack of humor, the queen's giving a wholly non-campy performance (director fault, not that of Ms. Theron). The queen speaks in only two registers, high and low. The eight dwarves, largely famous actors whittled down to size by good ol' CG, including Bob Hoskins, Eddie Marsan, Ray Winstone.

See the movie for the fantasy: the makeup, the effects, the production design, all first-rate with solid, pounding music to rev up the tension.

Rated PG-13. 127 minutes. Rated R. 80 minutes. © 2011 by Harvey Karten Member: NY Film Critics Online.

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