Snow White & The Hunstman Just Misses

Hollywood has had a mini-love affair with fairy tales. If you notice I said ‘had’. After this weekend the chances of studio heads green lighting  another film, especially an expensive one, based on a fairy tale will be slim.

SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN opens today. It is about some virginal princess beset by an evil step-mom/queen who has a thing for being the most beautiful babe in the kingdom. When the virginal one surpasses the step-mom inn the looks department,  all sorts of evil doings start developing. Yeah, we know the story and we know the tropes. The wonderful world of Disney drilled it into us.

The cast for this latest entry is quite good and they do acquit themselves well. There is Charlize Theron as the evil Queen, chewing scenery quite nicely thank you very much. Liam Hemsworth, the hunk du jour, acting all sorts of like the bad boy, but with a heart of gold. He’s the huntsman, big surprise. Playing yet another virginal waif is Kristen Stewart, who better watch out, she may play a virgin until she dies. She’s OK in the film. She does’t pout like she did throughout those TWILIGHT films.

Overall the film is OK. The ads stress this is not a fairy tale as we know it. This is because the marketing people in Hollywood have see the writing on the wall.  For Hollywood brand name recognition is a pre-requisite for any film to be made these days. They fervently believe that to make gobs of money, the audience is too stupid to see anything unless its name rises above the advertising clutter. If they know it, they will come.  

But there is an inherent problem. Though there is remarkably high brand name recognition for these fairy tale films, the public wants it’s fairly tales like its politicians, full of lies and spouting happy endings. And to achieve that goal requires deft writing to repeatedly repackage the same old, same old.  Sadly, quality writing is an art lost on studio executives who see writers as an expense they’d rather be without.

This has proven to be the downfall of many of the fairy tale films. Trying to update them to a modern audience is at best difficult especially since many of the writers don’t have a clue of what a fairy tale truly is. In MIRROR, MIRROR they took the snarky, wink-wink approach. In SNOW WHITE, they go for a dark, LORD OF THE RINGS approach. In the latter it almost works, but in their desire to be ‘cool’ or ‘modern’, they forget one of the most central of themes for any movie. It has to have a heart, a core.

Ironically the heart theme plays throughout SNOW WHITE. Unfortunately it is never fully developed, it is left weakly beating and ultimately the film does not satisfy. The film’s grosses will be at best so-so. So Hollywood will bemoan the public’s disdain for fairy tale movies and never admit they simple truth. You can’t make a good movie without good, intelligent writing. Now we have to wonder what will happen to HANSEL & GRETEL WITCH HUNTERS. Oh, that’s from Paramount and quite another story, especially after the GI JOE debacle.



Review: Mirror, Mirror

Mirror, Mirror is another film that has been released that centers on the fairy tale of Snow White. You know the story, a comely, virginal young princess is threatened by her mean, vain, powerful witch/step mother. She is forced into an ‘alternative lifestyle’ relationship with 7 men of diminutive stature in the deep, dark, forbidding woods. That is until a handsome, square jawed presumably boring young man, who happens to be the next in line to a beautiful, wealthy kingdom finds her, rescues her and they live happily ever after or until the peasants become restive.

In this entry, the film is directed by Tarsem Singh. Mr. Singh is from India, you know from the sub-continent best known for call centers for big corporations where you seldom get a satisfactory result. Mr. Singh’s previous work include The Immortals and The Cell. In this re-telling of the fairy tales, Mr. Singh’s visual style is adventurous, his concepts a cut above and the acting very good, more on that in a bit.

Unfortunately, the film tries to be faithful to its source material and be irreverent at the same time. The standard Snow White tropes abound while the characters speak in sneaky post-millennium cultural wise cracks. It is a difficult proposition, be old school and new school at the same time. For the most part it falls flat. This isn’t really Mr. Singh’s fault. It is the fault of the script that lacks the coherence needed to pull this off.

On the acting side, Julia Roberts who plays the Queen does a more than credible job. Her Queen is imperious, mean and with a wicked mouth. She’s perfect for the film. The men playing the dwarfs have distinct personalities and are endearing. Lily Collins has the difficult role of playing Snow White. It is a thankless role and she does OK. It is not until the end of the film where the character becomes strong enough to be liked. Armie Hammer, as the Prince, is the best of the bunch. His characterization as the upright, square, do-gooder royal works especially when he is placed in some unusual situations. In these, he grabs them with gusto and displays his confidence as an actor. Sadly Nathan Lane’s role says more about Lane as an actor these days. It was disappointing to see some with so many obvious talents playing a broad buffoon to little effect. His time on the screen will only satisfy the non-discriminating viewer.

What’s the final verdict? Mirror, Mirror is 50/50. It is fine for kids and adults will tolerate it. Some may even like it, but in the long term, Mirror, Mirror will enjoy moderate success and then drift into obscurity where it will live unhappily ever after.