Directed by Tarsem Singh. Starring Lily Collins, Julia Roberts, Armie Hammer, Nathan Lane. (2012, PG, 107 min.)
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., April 6, 2012
The Brothers Grimm first transcribed the folk tale of Snow White some two centuries ago, so concessions to modernity were inevitable, which is perhaps why Snow (as she's known here) undergoes a Karate Kid-like training montage in self-defense. (Less clear is why she concludes the montage in a jumpsuit that channels the Eighties, Pirates of Penzance, and a barmaid at an oompah biergarten.) But this umpteenth reiteration of the fairy tale has held fast to its most tiresome aspects: Snow White's dull sweetness and the evil Queen's one-track motivation.
Julia Roberts plays the nasty, vanity-first queen in question, scheming to take out her pretty stepdaughter, Snow (Collins), her only competition for the hunky Prince Alcott (Hammer, amiably sporting for so much silliness). In the grand tradition of baddies-be-British, Roberts plays the queen with an English accent, although she resorts to her native American accent when embodying the straight-shooting mirror. As conceived by filmmaker Tarsem Singh (The Fall, Immortals), the mirror functions like the Queen's ego and superego as if trapped in a water-bound cabin while her id goes stomping around the castle, threatening to eat Snow's heart. It's an interesting touch, one of several visuals that spark – see also: dwarves who carouse as giants on accordion stilts and a black-magic marionette bent on destruction. But mostly there's just a lot of noise. This is fussy filmmaking, overly made-up (the costume mandate seems to include the buzzwords "coffee filters," "croquembouche," and "Day-Glo paint") and bereft of wit.