Tuesday, June 05, 2012
At the risk of sounding redundant, I vote for Mirror Mirror. And that surprises me.
Months ago, when the trailers for Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman played endlessly in theaters, the former looked like pretty but pointless kiddie junk, replete with bad puns like "Snow Way." The latter looked like an exciting take on the fairy tale, filled with action and drama. Charlize Theron looked deliciously nasty as an evil queen, while Julia Roberts seemed to be mostly mugging.
How did this happen? Mirror Mirror knew exactly what it was - a silly, peppy kid-friendly version of the classic fairy tale. Snow White and the Huntsman, on the other hand, is a turgid, unfocused mess that wants to be the Lord of the Rings version of Snow White, but fails to live up to either of its antecedents.
Mirror Mirror is far from a great movie. It's slight and innocuous, but it at least boasts moments of real visual imagination courtesy of director Tarsem Singh (The Cell), who has fun with swirling camera movements and inventive visual gags like the seven dwarfs using stilts to rob and fight people. And the writers had the good sense to jettison some of the lame jokes in the trailers.
But Snow White and the Huntsman is a physically ugly film, replete with gray skies, globs of mud and battle scenes that barely make sense. First time director Rupert Sanders pulls off a handful of interesting effects, but his storytelling is terrible. The romance, supposedly one of the key components of the film, is a complete bust, with the title characters having no chemistry whatsoever.
The two Snow White actresses acquit themselves fairly well. Collins isn't terribly distinct, but she's energetic and plays along with the laughs quite nicely. The awful movie surrounding Stewart leaves her somewhat at sea, but she at least makes a solid effort to carry the film.
Theron, on the other hand, tries TOO hard to carry the film. Sure, the evil queen is supposed to chew the scenery, but Theron devours it like the Tasmanian Devil, to stifling effect. She plays almost every scene with the volume turned up to 11, barking like a very pretty mad dog. She's worse than evil - she's annoying.
The trailers for Mirror Mirror made Roberts seem like she was out of her depth, but she gamely rolls with the whimsical tone of the film and is clearly having fun. It's hard to buy her as truly evil, but she does manage to be engagingly nasty.
It's not like turning Snow White into an adventure heroine is a bad idea - Ginnifer Goodwin manages to be both fair and ferocious in the ABC series Once Upon a Time. That series can spin yarns with the skill of Rumplestiltskin. It beasts either of the features. If you only have time for one movie, look into Mirror Mirror. Snow White and the Huntsman is a rotten, poisonous apple.
MIRROR MIRROR: B
SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN: D