Snow White and the Huntsman

Somewhere I am certain that Walt Disney is smiling.

Snow White and the HuntsmanLet me say from the outset that I am a big admirer of Walt Disney, which includes reading the magnificent biography entitled “Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination” by Neal Gabler. He was an unquestioned genius, and he tends to be overlooked today in light of the focus on Disney World and other related family vacation spots.

On the other hand, the glorious imagination of Pixar can only be found in Disney’s original contribution to animation. What is largely overlooked was how dark and morally conflicted his original films were, and that is unfortunate. Who can forget the horrible death of Bambi’s (1942) mother? What about Pinocchio’s (1940) tragic betrayal of the loving Geppetto as he simply wanted to find a way to become a little boy? Finally, Snow White (1937) might have had the help of the goofy dwarfs, but the Queen was wicked in every respect as she sought to kill her.

Which brings us to this year’s Snow White and the Huntsman, which is a wonderfully enjoyable movie on a whole host of levels. The story of Snow White trying to survive on the run while being pursued by the dark and perverse Queen is in many ways an emotional roller coaster for adults and teenagers alike.

Charlize Theron is flat-out brilliant as the Evil Queen, a beautiful woman with diabolical powers who tricked Snow White’s grieving widowed father into marriage after a one-day meeting only to stab him to death when they go to bed for the first time. This is a woman whose definition of birth control is a sharp knife.

Imprisoning her stepdaughter until her subsequent escape years later, Ms. Theron is dedicated to achieving immortality by horribly destroying young women while absorbing their youth. In that regard, Ms. Theron continues to explore unconventional roles for which she deserves praise. While I didn’t like last year’s Young Adult, she was disgustingly good as a woman trying to pursue an old flame who was now married and having his first child. Her short role in The Road (2009) was unforgettable as a wife who decided to simply kill herself rather than being forced to watch her son and husband be destroyed by the cannibalistic hoards in a post-apocalyptic world. Finally, think of her disturbing role in Monster (2003), where she played a deranged serial killer eventually sent to die in the electric chair. This is a beautiful woman who won’t rest on her obvious physical charm.

And while I could easily criticize Kristin Stewart’s performance as Snow White, she has always been good at playing a spunky young woman with dirty fingernails. She was superior as the trailer park waif in Sean Penn’s Into the Wild (2007), and she builds on that role as a woman who could be the eventual Queen if she can survive.

Quite frankly, the only criticism I have of Ms. Stewart in this film is that she once again has two men in love with her. Though I have regrettably found nearly all of the Twilight movies tragically boring, the only real interest was whether she would run off with the vampire or the werewolf. Here, she has to choose between the son of a Duke and the huntsman of the movie’s title, and you have a good idea where this is heading, even though it is not firmly decided at movie’s end.

Additionally, Chris Hemworth is quite functional in the role of the huntsman, a man whose initial irritation with Snow White eventually evolves into something far more compelling. While he would just as soon be rid of her, even the legendary Thor (2011) has hormonal issues.

Finally, one of the great delights of the film is provided by the collection of dwarfs, who are both mean-spirited and quite funny. In addition, they are played by some charming actors, among them Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Toby Jones and the wonderfully acerbic Ian McShane. These guys are small men with a bad attitude and a nasty disposition, and they come to Snow White’s aid at the right time.

In any event, this is a film that it is worth seeing in the theater. The cinematography is frequently quite spectacular, particularly the overhead shots of the hideous forest that will provide Snow White protection or her ultimate death. This film is an ultimate tribute to Walt Disney, and I couldn’t help but again honor him as I left the theater.