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Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington Wilmington@moviecitynews.com

Wilmington on Movies: Snow White and the Huntsman

 

SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN (Two and a Half Stars)

U.S.: Rupert Sanders, 2012

Snow White and the Huntsman may have struck it rich at the box office so far, but it also has one of the clunkiest movie titles around, and unfortunately a lot of the movie is worthy of it. A wildly expensive and lushly produced new look at the Grimm Brothers fairy tale “Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs,” the movie, starring Kristen Stewart as Snow, manages to waste an interesting idea, a fitfully intelligent script, a very good cast (with a big juicy villainess turn by Charize Theron as the wicked queen) and outstanding production design and cinematography, only to come up with a bloated, sexed-up  fairytale show, seething with fancy cliches.

The likely culprit this time may be director Rupert Sanders: a star TV commercial director (for Nike and Microsoft, among others) making his feature directorial debut. Sanders’ work, while full of pretty or even stunning pictures of seaside castles, and dark forbidding forests, and gossamer fairylands, showed, I thought, little evidence of an ability to tell stories, to bring actors alive (besides Charlize Theron), and not to get drowned in fancy imagery.

I’m not saying he can’t learn, and if the film keeps cleaning up, he’ll get plenty of chances. But the producers may have done him little service by having him practice on a 100 million dollar plus production, with a lot of complex logistics, a tricky revisionist script and a dopey title.

Maybe you think I‘m being rough on the damned title, but tell the truth: Most of you think it’s pretty ridiculous too, don‘t you? “Snow White and the Huntsman.” Sheeesh. What in hell (or heck), I wondered when I first saw it, is the point of taking a perfectly good title like “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” kicking out the dwarfs and adding the huntsman, the guy who originally does a cameo in the Grimm tale by not killing Snow White and letting her run off in the dark forest. It seems a silly switch, even if you’re hell-bent on emphasizing the movie’s romantic element, which now includes both the huntsman and the prince (Sam Ciaffin), and hell-bent also on emphasizing the fact that a hunk star like Chris Hemsworth (of Thor) is playing the Huntsman, one of the romantic leads. (I don’t remember the movie giving him a name, so we’ll refer to him henceforth as Huntsman. Or maybe Hunt Guy.)

 

Maybe somebody was worried that “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” sounds too Disney, or maybe too kinky. But if you are, why ignore the obvious substitution of just plain Snow White? There’s not much romance anyway in the movie; the most passionate relationship is probably the one between Snow and Theron as her wicked stepmother Ravenna. As a title, “Snow White” is better. Heck, I think “Snow White and The Three Stooges” is better.

Actually, the original writer, Evan Daugherty (he was joined or augmented at various times by others, including John Lee Hancock and Hossein Amini), hadn’t even intended a romance between Snow White and Huntsman. He did however want a blending of the Snow White story and Peter Jackson’s movie version of Tolkien‘s Lord of the Rings Trilogy, with a little bit of the Natalie PortmanJean Reno little- girl-tough guy pairing in Luc Besson’s The Professional.

In the beginning, which the best section of the movie. it almost works. An all-knowing narrator whisks us from “Once Upon a Time” through the initially sad story of Snow White — born to a queen who wished for a daughter with skin white as snow, lips red as a rose, hair black as ebony — and, as events whiz by, we learn (stuff from the Gimm story, augmented) that Snow’s mother (Liberty Ross) died in childbirth, Snow’s imprudent father married bombshell Ravenna, who poisoned and killed him, brought in her creepy brother with a Dutchboy haircut, Finn (Sam Spruell), to divvy up and loot the kingdom, and began to spend absurd amounts of time, cross-examining her mirror about the identity of the fairest in the land.

Of course, the mirror first says the charm champ is Ravenna, but eventually switches its vote to the imprisoned Snow. Frankly, I thought The Queen always had the edge. And didn‘t this movie miss a trick by not casting Simon Cowell as the Mirror? (I realize the people who like this show though, admire what they consider its successfully darker or more serious tone and themes — which I’ve got to say, sort of eluded me.)

To wipe out her only real rival, Ravenna sends off Huntsman to kill Snow — and that begins the quest part of the story, along with a lot of stuff inserted to give the new hero, Huntsman, something to do. Eventually, this all leads us to the dwarfs, played by such scene-stealing British character stars as Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Eddie Marsan and Toby Jones, all of whom have had their heads transferred to the bodies of dwarfs though the magic of CGI). It all climaxes with Snow suddenly turning into another Luc Besson movie heroine, Joan of Arc, and leading a quickly assembled fairytale army of stalwart bashers into the Queen’s castle. (By the way, even though the dwarfs here are played by some of my favorite movie people, I agree with Roger Ebert that it was wrong to make use of that CGI legerdemain to shrink them, and that the movie should have instead employed real dwarf actors.)

As I said the production design (by Dominic Watkins) and the cinematography (by Greig Fraser) is impressive, but the story loses its polish and swing and a lot of its coherence when the narration stops and it turns into an over-produced ersatz classic. None of the actors but Theron — who just becomes ferocious, full of venom and gleeful sadism — are given much interesting to do, except to take a gander at all the horrors and wonders around them, yell during battle or muse on the travails of the evil kingdom and fairyland. (Maybe I’m unfair, but this is not an inspiring script.)

But let’s be positive. Why not more fairytale movie extravaganzas with improved, sexed up titles? “Goldilocks and The Three Bears” can become “Goldilocks and the Handsome Woodsman.” “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” can be “Ali Baba and the Princess” (maybe “Ali Baba and the Hot Princess“). And “The Elves and the Shoemaker” can be reborn as “The Elves and the Shoemaker’s Wife.” That all may sound a little ’60s soft-core porno-ish. But frankly. so does “Snow White and the Huntsman.”

Well, you get the drift. Mirror, Mirror, on the wall… Anyway, money is money, Huntsmen are huntsmen, but I missed Dopey.

 

6 Responses to “Wilmington on Movies: Snow White and the Huntsman”

  1. Linda S says:

    Who was the narrator? It sounded a lot like Gerard Butler, was it?

  2. HrzTrbl says:

    It’s Chris Hemsworth

  3. chuck says:

    I believe it was Richard Armitage (Thorin).

  4. chuck says:

    Elenor (Snow White’s mother) died when Snow White was a young girl, not in childbirth. ERIC, the huntsman was sent to bring back Snow White alive because Ravenna needed her beating heart. Perhaps you should have watched the movie!

  5. Lorraine says:

    It sounds like Douglas Scott

  6. Rory says:

    Apparently the narrator was Liam Neeson , who, although a non-Scot, actually made a reasonable enough job of the Scottish accent requested of him. Mind you, Casting Directors everywhere. if you want a GENUINE Scottish accent, I am available…

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“I suddenly couldn’t say anything about some of the movies. They were just so terrible, and I’d already written about so many terrible movies. I love writing about movies when I can discover something in them – when I can get something out of them that I can share with people. The week I quit, I hadn’t planned on it. But I wrote up a couple of movies, and I read what I’d written, and it was just incredibly depressing. I thought, I’ve got nothing to share from this. One of them was of that movie with Woody Allen and Bette Midler, Scenes From a Mall. I couldn’t write another bad review of Bette Midler. I thought she was so brilliant, and when I saw her in that terrible production of ‘Gypsy’ on television, my heart sank. And I’d already panned her in Beaches. How can you go on panning people in picture after picture when you know they were great just a few years before? You have so much emotional investment in praising people that when you have to pan the same people a few years later, it tears your spirits apart.”
~ Pauline Kael On Quitting

“My father was a Jerome. My daughter’s middle name is Jerome. But my most vexing and vexed relationship with a Jerome was with Jerome Levitch, the subject of my first book under his stage and screen name, Jerry Lewis.

I have a lot of strong and complex feelings about the man, who passed away today in Las Vegas at age 91. Suffice to say he was a brilliant talent, an immense humanitarian, a difficult boss/interview, and a quixotic sort of genius, as often inspired as insipid, as often tender as caustic.

I wrote all about it in my 1996 book, “King of Comedy,” which is available on Kindle. With all due humility, it’s kinda definitive — the good and the bad — even though it’s two decades old. My favorite review, and one I begged St. Martin’s (unsuccessfully) to put on the paperback jacket, came from “Screw” magazine, which called it “A remarkably fair portrait of a great American asshole.”

Jerry and I met twice while I was working on the book and spoke/wrote to each other perhaps a dozen times. Like many of his relationships with the press and his partners/subordinates, it ended badly, with Jerry hollering profanities at me in the cabin of his yacht in San Diego. I wrote about it in the epilogue to my book, and over the years I’ve had the scene quoted back to me by Steve Martin, Harry Shearer, Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette. Tom Hanks once told me that he had a dinner with Paul Reiser and Martin Short at which Short spent the night imitating Jerry throwing me off the boat.

Jerry was a lot of things: father, husband, chum, businessman, philanthropist, artist, innovator, clown, tyrant. He was at various times in his life the highest-ever-paid performer on TV, in movies, and on Broadway. He raised BILLIONS for charity, invented filmmaking techniques, made perhaps a dozen classic comedies, turned in a terrific dramatic performance in Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy,” and left the world altered and even enhanced with his time and his work in it.

That’s an estimable achievement and one worth pausing to commemorate.

#RIP to Le Roi du Crazy

~ Biographer Shawn Levy on Jerry Lewis on Facebook