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Sunday, June 24, 2012

The evil Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron)
sits on her throne in Snow White and the Huntsman.

2 Stars

Snow White and the Huntsman is a concept in search of a cinematic purpose. Because its creators can't find it, they attempt to win their audience over with flashy, extravagant special effects. They fail.

The film is an almost painful watch. It's incredibly episodic, and the connective tissue between scenes is flimsier than tissue paper. The special effects, while impressive, are totally overdone, and the seemingly capable cast proves unable to make up for the film's gargantuan narrative deficiencies.

The story of Snow White is, of course, one familiar to most moviegoers out there. Director Rupert Sanders departs from it in some big ways, but the framework of Disney's classic is still there. The titular princess (Kristin Stewart) has been locked in a tower for years, since her stepmother—Ravenna (Charlize Theron)—killed her father and assumed his place on the throne. A magic mirror assures Ravenna everyday that she's the fairest in all the land, but one day, he informs her that Snow White's purity threatens her rule. By consuming the young girl's heart, however, she can gain immortality. But Snow White escapes into the Dark Forest, so the Queen enlists the help of a huntsman (Chris Hemsworth), who knows the territory well, to find Snow White and bring her back.

Snow White and the Huntsman tries so hard to please everyone that it manages to somehow not please anyone. Men will find the battles even lamer than those in The Chronicles of Narnia. Women might appreciate the presence of Bella Swan herself, but the film's requisite love story is muddled and unsatisfying. It's unclear where Charlize Theron's scenery chewing (I won't call it a performance) belongs on that male/female spectrum, but I have a hard time believing anyone would really admire overacting this crazy.

The special effects are admittedly nice, but once the film wears out its welcome (which doesn't take very long at all), they become irritating and simply pad the bloated running time. The film also deserves a modicum of credit for fantastic costumes (Colleen Atwood, which shouldn't come as much of a surprise) and a solid original score (James Newton Howard).

Kristin Stewart can act, despite what the anti-Twilight crowd would have you believe. Her work in Adventureland, for example, is sensational. But here, she's in full on Bella mode with the lip quiver, labored breathing, and all the rest of it. She's got absolutely no charisma, which makes her a really hard heroine to get behind. Hemsworth is better, but he, too, is a let down, especially after last year's awesome coming out party in Thor (and his return to the role in The Avengers).

There's no lack of conflict in Snow White and the Huntsman, but it's all poorly drawn and half-hearted. It's hard to muster up much passion for a film—positively or negatively—when it's so content to just go through the motions, but needless to say, I'm not recommending Snow White and the Huntsman under any circumstances. It's not Battleship bad, but it's an absolutely pointless summer movie exercise.


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