May 31, 2012 at 8:47 PM ET
REVIEW:"Snow White and the Huntsman" hits theaters just two months after "Mirror Mirror," another big-screen live-action version of the Snow White tale. Was there a need for two such films? Having seen them both, I'd say there wasn't even a need for one.
"Mirror Mirror," with Julia Roberts as the evil queen and Lily Collins as Snow White, was slapsticky and forgettable. "Snow White and the Huntsman" goes the other way, staying as dark and grimy as possible while keeping to its PG-13 rating.
Kristen Stewart is Snow White, and refreshingly but oddly, she's no beauty queen. "Fairest of them all" often doesn't apply, as Stewart's Snow White is trapped in a castle tower for years, with no access to soap or, as one scene makes obvious, a fingernail brush. When she finally escapes the clutches of her evil stepmother (Charlize Theron), she flees into the dark woods and suddenly it's as if we're in an episode of "Game of Thrones," with swords and arrows, clashing armies, supernatural elements, hapless peasants and a blonde brother-sister duo who have a fairly weird relationship.
Some of the Snow White elements seem just randomly thrown in -- the poisoned apple makes a brief appearance, and like her Disney predecessor, Snow White displays an uncanny friendship with the animals. No one expects the seven dwarves in a movie like this to be rosy-cheeked and Disneyfied, but as with the dwarves in "Mirror Mirror," they're indistinguishable and unmemorable. The film is so grim near the end that the few funny lines the dwarves deliver were greeted with raucous laughter from an audience aching for something entertaining.
This could have been Theron's movie, but aside from sucking the youth and beauty out of maidens (in a scene revealed in the trailers) and donning a cloak made of ravens, she doesn't have much to do. Her magic mirror starts out as a gold gong, and slowly drizzles into a guy who looks exactly like an Academy Award -- but the mirror plot device, so important in the Snow White mythos, is hardly touched on here.
Chris Hemsworth makes for a lively Huntsman, sent to kill Snow White but instead turning on the evil queen. He swings his axe with the same ease his Thor swings his hammer, and you're convinced he knows his way around an evil enchanted forest. Too bad the script didn't give him Kristen Stewart's awkwardly delivered Joan of Arc-esque speech near the film's end -- coming from him, it might have rung true.
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