Walt Disney has mangled the Grimm Brothers fairy tale ‘Snow White’, eliminating the darker side of the story to offer a blander version instead. In the animated film, Snow White is an innocent, animal loving, singing maiden with a posse of dwarves – the cartoon equivalent of Julie Andrews in the ‘Sound of Music’ in charge of seven children.
The problem with Walt Disney is he wanted children to be entertained with fairy tales that were uplifting and happy, even though previous generations of children had grown up on the darker versions. The aim of the original fairy tales was not to demonstrate that life was good. Instead, they contained uncomfortable truths and cautionary stories that the animated Disney films don’t acknowledge.
With this in mind, ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’ makes some attempt to return to the darker elements of the fairy tale. The Queen, (Charlize Theron) is indeed jealous of the youthful Snow White (Kristen Stewart). The queen ages whenever she uses magic and needs young maidens to restore her beauty. The magic mirror informs her that she need only take the heart of Snow White to be forever beautiful and powerful.
Unsurprisingly, Snow White opts for Plan B which is to escape into the dark forest. An inebriated huntsman (Chris Helmsworth) is dispatched to bring her back alive so the Queen can extract her beating heart. This is where the story diverts from both the original fairy tale and the animated Disney version. The relationship between Snow White and the huntsman becomes the focus of the story. The dwarves, played by non-dwarf actors, with special effects used to reduce their size, are barely in the film. However, when they do appear it is either to utter some mystical advice or as comic relief.
The prince who rescues Snow White in the fairy tale is dispatched altogether and replaced by an insipid Duke. The Duke is incapable of reviving Snow White after the poisoned apple trick nor serves as a convincing love interest. Instead, Snow White becomes increasingly attached to the huntsman and vice-versa, without any kind of romance developing there either.
The film is heavy on effects but overdone. Kristen Stewart is miscast as Snow White and more akin to a surly, clumsy Joan of Arc than a gentle princess. Furthermore, it is impossible to believe Stewart as viable competition to Theron in the beauty stakes. Only Candice Swanepoel, a Victoria’s Secret supermodel, could ever offer a credible threat.
The film sits somewhere between a Narnia, Lord of the Rings and Hobbit prequel with the dwarves and Bilbo Baggins searching for a plot.
Whatever it tries to be there is definitely something missing. If Hugh Jackman appeared as the huntsman – in a duet with Ann Hathaway as Snow White – and Julie Andrews appeared in the finale singing with the dwarves then, Walt Disney, I’d pay to see that.