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Grimm Tidings

This is funny, but it’s not supposed to be.

Jun 11, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 37 • By JOHN PODHORETZ
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Snow White and the Huntsman is the second revisionist retelling of the fairy tale this year. Mirror Mirror, the one with Julia Roberts as the evil queen, was supposed to be funny, though it wasn’t. Snow White and the Huntsman isn’t supposed to be funny, but it is. It’s funny because this $170 million epic has long sequences in which it is literally impossible to understand a single word anybody on screen is saying. The only performer whose dialogue is comprehensible at all times is Charlize Theron, and that’s because she drags.  .  . out.  .  . every.  .  . line.  .  . like.  .  . this: “You—will—kill her—for me—HUNTSMANNN!!!!!!”

Kristen Stewart as Snow White


The Huntsman in question is played by an Australian actor named Chris Hemsworth, who also played Thor in The Avengers (and in Thor, too, but let’s draw a veil over that monstrosity). Here, he essays a Scottish accent. Also, he’s drunk much of the time. So he rolls his “r”s while he slurs his words and, as a result, he might as well be speaking Swahili throughout. I think he says “Aye” a lot, like Mike Myers does when he plays a Scotsman, but I can’t be sure.

The Huntsman is the character in the original Grimm tale whom the queen sends to slay Snow White in the Dark Forest and return with her heart as proof, but he cannot bring himself to do it. In Snow White and the Huntsman, he’s a sorrowful widower tricked into going after Snow White by the queen, called Ravenna, who promises to use her magical powers to bring his wife back to life.

Though Ravenna has a talking mirror—well, she calls it a mirror, but it’s actually a giant golden plate—she isn’t really the wicked queen from Grimm or Disney. She’s more Elisabeth Bathory, the psychotic 17th-century Hungarian countess who supposedly bathed in virgins’ blood to keep herself young, and who has been the subject of countless cheap horror movies.

Ravenna wants Snow White’s heart not simply to be sure the girl is dead, but because if she eats it, apparently, she won’t have to suck the life force out of all the young girls she kidnaps and turns into old ladies.

Are we having fun yet? I haven’t even gotten to the dwarves. They make an appearance, too, and here’s where the movie’s dialogue track really goes haywire. They are played by a group of full-size actors shrunk down by special effects. The group includes Bob Hoskins, Eddie Marsan, and Ray Winstone—all wonderful British performers best known for their working-class accents.

They turn on those accents full-blast here, and we end up with exchanges like this:

Dwarf 1: Ehhh, mezzzur the hrrrzzzz.

Dwarf 2: Oi denna groilll.

Dwarf 3: Tha girll is the chooosen wan.

Huntsman: Aye. [I think.]

Advance word is that this movie is going to be a blockbuster, and maybe it will be. It borrows so many elements from other recent hits that it might seem like comfort food to teenage audiences. The dwarves look like hobbits from The Lord of the Rings. The completely indecipherable battle scenes with shaky camera work and no sense of who’s fighting whom are pure Michael Bay. 

Mostly, though, we get Twilight. The Huntsman has a rival for Snow’s affections in her childhood friend William—thus creating a love triangle shamelessly ripped off from that series of vampire movies. Only here we have Team William vs. Team Huntsman (no, not the four people who voted for the former Utah governor in the GOP primaries). The parallel is made even more explicit by the fact that the star of the Twilight movies also plays Snow White.

Her name is Kristen Stewart, and I’m sorry to report that she doesn’t demonstrate a lot of range. When Snow is (SPOILER ALERT if you’ve never been a child) poisoned by that infamous apple, Stewart performs exactly the same writhing-on-the-ground bit she did when she was poisoned by vampire venom in the first Twilight movie. And I put the word “exactly” in italics because I meant exactly.

Yes, maybe it will be a hit. Many really bad movies are these days. But seriously, would it have killed director Rupert Sanders to bring the actors back into the studio for some “looping”? That’s when they rerecord lines. Of course, he would have had to re-record almost every word.

Except for Charlize Theron’s. Because when I left the theater, she was still saying, “Mirrrorrr mirrrrorr onnnnn the wallllllll .  .  .”

John Podhoretz, editor of Commentary, is The Weekly Standard’s movie critic.

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