Snow White and the Huntsman is a tastefully heavy-handed franchise fairy tale. It has a handful of ravishing touches and Charlize Theron is sensational as the scheming Queen Ravenna, the evil stepmother who is mad for power. Yet the film is working so hard to turn a famous girl story into a story for both girls and guys that it’s like watching three movies in one.
Theron, knowingly over-the-top, acts in a viciously entertaining high style. Looking like a six-foot-tall human bird as designed by Jean Paul Gaultier, she updates the mythic ripeness of the material. And that’s true, in a different way, of Kristen Stewart, who is just delicate and wary enough to play “purity” without becoming a pain.
But when Snow White escapes to the Dark Woods, Snow White and the Huntsman becomes a very different movie. It turns into a clangy medieval epic, full of random woodland monsters and battles. It begins to lose the pulse of its fairy tale mystique.
The queen has recruited the Huntsman, a legendary roving warrior, to bring Snow White back to the castle. But Snow White enlists him to be her savior-protector. The Huntsman is played by Chris Hemsworth, the talented star of Thor. Here, Hemsworth’s long blond hair has gone drab brown. His performance is a little colorless too.
It doesn’t help that Snow White’s romantic inclinations remain oddly vague. That’s a real miscalculation, too, since Kristen Stewart is so much more convincing as a victim-heartthrob than when she has to put on armor and lead a revolution. By the end, she’s Joan of Arc meets Braveheart meets Katniss Everdeen and she’s less than convincing on all fronts.
Did I mention that there are dwarves? They’re played by name actors who are fun to recognize beneath their fake-looking Munchkin-meets-Hobbit wigs and makeup. Though if they’d been given a few better lines, maybe that part of the movie, too, wouldn’t have fallen short.
Snow White and the Huntsman is in theaters now.