Friday, December 15, 2017
Movies

Review: Not even Disney's magic can awaken this 'Snow White'

Kristen Stewart should watch her mouth. She isn't talking trash or dirty, but slack-jawed is no way for a fairy-tale warrior to look. Not that there's much action in Snow White and the Huntsman anyway.

Sternly pursed lips say a lot when you're facing down an ogre and evil stepmom or readying for swordplay. Stewart hasn't grasped that particular acting lesson or the ones about fiery glares and determined postures. She seldom seems genuinely engaged with what she's asked to do, thinking nobody will notice her gape-mouthed lack of emotion.

All we want from Stewart is fewer views of her two front teeth.

There is plenty of time to be distracted by Stewart's pie hole in Snow White and the Huntsman; essentially every moment that Charlize Theron and a how'd-they-do-that gang of dwarves aren't on screen. There are eight little people in this version, the lone example of director Rupert Sanders giving the audience more than expected.

Theron makes a ferociously vain Queen Ravenna, whose whirlwind enticement, marriage to and murder of Snow's father the king establishes a Grimm-ness the rest of the movie struggles to match. That's also when you see the movie's niftiest special effects: Ravenna's shadow battalion of tinted-glass samurai that shatter on contact, and her magic mirror, which looks more like a gong oozing a golden trick-or-treat ghost. But you can get those fixes cheaper from the preview trailer.

The mirror ghost assures Ravenna she's fairest of them all but warns that Snow is Miss Congeniality destined to win the crown. Snow is banished to a castle prison with girls whose youth gets supernaturally inhaled by Ravenna, sort of like aerosol Botox. Snow escapes into an enchanted forest complete with happy mini-Gollums and a white elk with tree branch antlers, and passes out from inhaling psychotropic spores.

Snow awakens to see the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth, nowhere nearly as fun as he is as Thor). He was dispatched by Ravenna to slay Snow and return her heart for a snack. One look at Snow's overbite and the Huntsman is smitten, pledging to help Snow defeat Ravenna and claim her throne.

That's when the dwarves show up, and a grungy, larcenous bunch they are, played by fine average-height actors like Bob Hoskins, Toby Jones and Ian McShane but cleverly and digitally cut down to size. I spent several minutes not caring what was happening with the story but just observing the patchwork illusion of oversized props, short stunt doubles and computer grafting of big faces on small bodies. Nice work.

The dwarves even sing, although their campfire songs are more like Enya dirges than Disney ditties. They aren't named Grumpy, Sneezy and so on, and that's a shame. Hoskins' sightless dwarf could be considered the eighth of the group, and he would be named Blindy. That might even coax a smile from Stewart. Open-mouthed, of course.

Steve Persall can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365.

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