Published on June 12th, 2012 | by Jordan Petersen0
REVIEW: Snow White and the Hunstman
This summer’s second (and less cringe-inducing) retelling of the classic fairytale turns out to be a pretty remarkable study in the unearned. As I left the theater, I tried to come up with the right way to describe someone who receives or tries to get something he or she doesn’t earn, but all I could think of was the word “entitled,” and that doesn’t fit here.
Take Kristen Stewart as the archetypal manifestation of what I’m trying to describe. In Snow White, she reprises her role as the girl who doesn’t have to actually do anything to be a hero. In fact, she has a lot in common with Tim Burton’s milquetoast envisioning of Alice. But that’s a digression I should avoid. Instead, let me explain how Stewart’s titular character was a perfect representation of the weaknesses of this film.
At one point — wearing a white dress, and having awoken from a poisoned coma for no apparent reason — she gives a speech that makes very little sense, but seems very earnest, to a whole bunch of soldiers who have never seen or heard from her before. This apparently warrants a unanimous and enthusiastic cheer and a deep bow — and then they’re off to slay the queen.
The whole way through, you get the idea that it all makes perfect sense to the characters, even if the audience isn’t so fortunate. And this is true with almost every dramatic moment and envelope-pushing image so that, by the end, the movie is mainly just a sloppy, nonsensical collection of really cool, but totally unearned moments. The hero doesn’t ever do anything heroic, and the writers don’t earn any of the drama they dump into the script.
Of course, there is also a total poverty of character development. No one in this movie seems real or important, which makes it impossible to care what happens to them. In one instance, a character is introduced, does nothing of consequence and then perishes fifteen minutes later under swells of despairing music and our dim heroine’s tears.
Ultimately, this is Charlize Theron’s movie, and I found myself rooting for her pretty much the whole time. Not that her character was sufficiently dimensional, but at least she was interesting. Watching the evil queen kick Bella’s wimpy trash was tremendously satisfying, and when she died (inevitably), I felt sincere disappointment. Welcome to a more boring world, thought I. Her character may have been written badly, but Ms. Theron sure can carry a scene. However, if all you’re looking for is some Charlize satisfaction, then go watch Young Adult, in which she plays a wicked queen of an entirely different sort.
The film’s saving grace is that it seems to have been executed with a kind of joyful oblivion, which lent the whole affair a certain charm. The filmmakers, I would wager, were totally unaware that the result of their work was an unending parade of senseless contrivances. But, much like listening to the confused pontifications of a dimwitted friend, the charm wears thin after a couple of hours. ♦ ♦ ♦
Jordan Petersen is SOUND’s resident sensei of all things movie-related. Recently graduated from Brigham Young University, he is now working towards a Master’s degree in film at Boston University. Check out Jordan’s filmmaking blog at twentyoneninety.blogspot.com.