Snow White and the Huntsman

Snowwhiteandthehuntsman

Movie review by Greg Carlson

Following Tarsem Singh’s “Mirror Mirror” as the second live-action adaptation of the classic fairy tale to be released in 2012, “Snow White and the Huntsman” musters very little novelty in what turns out to be an unnecessary, unlovable slog through the enchanted forest. Dressed up as an epic adventure that envisions the famous heroine as an armor-clad Joan of Arc warrior in the skin of Kristen Stewart, filmmaker Rupert Sanders’ assemblage drops too many characters in the poisonous brew, from the wicked queen Ravenna’s (Charlize Theron) Prince Valiant-coiffed brother to an extraneous Prince Charming who cannot compete with other title character Chris Hemsworth, stepping out as the longest side of a scalene love triangle.

Kristen Stewart has already been described by any number of critics as miscast, but the young performer is hardly to blame for the lion’s share of the film’s problems. An advertisement director making his feature debut, Sanders fails to translate the vision of his short spots for the likes of the “Halo” videogame franchise into a compelling tale worthy of 127 minutes. His pacing and rhythm are done in by numbing, mechanical crosscutting between Theron – delivering what always feels like monologue, even if other actors are present in the scene – and Snow White on the run from danger. Worst of all, Sanders takes everything as seriously as a funeral, and the film’s near complete lack of humor turns into a serious liability.

Three screenwriters, including Hossein Amini (Academy Award-nominated for “The Wings of the Dove” and hot from the success of “Drive”), struggle to freshen the core elements found in the Grimm story, botching something at practically every turn. Humanizing the evil stepmother by sharing her point of view may have been a valid move, but as soon as Ravenna’s vague gender/revenge business is dispensed in an extraneous flashback, Theron is drained of all complexity. Festooned with scales and feathers in Colleen Atwood get-ups that should make Bob Mackie drool, Theron tiresomely overtakes Stewart as front-runner for delivering the movie’s most disappointing performance.

While “Snow White and the Huntsman” is bereft of much captivating onscreen drama, actor Danny Woodburn’s criticism of the filmmakers for their decision to digitally position the visages of well-known “average size” actors including Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Toby Jones, Eddie Marsan, and Nick Frost on the bodies of little people once again raises a legitimate ethical question in the era of photorealistic computer effects. Woodburn, who appeared in “Mirror Mirror,” commented to “The New York Post” that the practice was “akin to blackface.” His viewpoint was supported by Leah Smith of Little People of America, who argued that little people should be cast in roles written for little people.

Woodburn’s frustration points to a longstanding conundrum within the entertainment industry: the overwhelming tendency for dwarfs to be included in stories almost exclusively as novel representations of otherness.  The fantastic Peter Dinklage, whose recent “Rolling Stone” cover interview touched on the pitfalls of maintaining dignity in the selection and acceptance of roles while trying to pay the bills as an actor, nailed it in Tom DeCillo’s “Living in Oblivion.” Dinklage’s exasperated actor Tito sticks it to Steve Buscemi’s indie filmmaker Nick Reve, saying “The only place I’ve seen dwarfs in dreams is in stupid movies like this.” “Snow White and the Huntsman” may not be a stupid movie for quite the same reason, but it’s still far from bright.

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