After the rather tepid “Mirror Mirror,” it’s probably safe to say that the world wasn’t exactly clamoring for another Snow White adaptation. Well, we get one anyway with “Snow White and the Huntsman,” a film that succeeds somewhat by not trying to be anything it’s not. This is a nice improvement over “Mirror Mirror” – even with a miscast lead.
That would be Kristen Stewart from “Twilight” fame, who isn’t as interesting as the film around her.
“Snow White and the Huntsman” begins with a great setup, the evil Ravenna (Charlize Theron) arriving in the kingdom run by Snow White’s father and killing the king on their wedding night so she can ascend to the throne.
She locks Snow White away in a dungeon until she learns that the girl is the key to her ability to rule forever.
Snow White manages to escape before Ravenna can kill her, so the queen hires a huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) to hunt Snow White down and bring her back to the kingdom.
But when the huntsman finds Snow White, he decides to side with her – agreeing to help her mount an army and destroy Ravenna.
First-time director Rupert Sanders does a nice job, creating a visually compelling film. To its credit, “Snow White and the Huntsman” goes all-in with a dark Brothers Grimm/Robin Hood-esque feel.
Even the dwarves, who provide a small bit of comic relief, fit in with the tone, with familiar faces such as Bob Hoskins and Ian McShane playing the roles in a clever bit of CGI work.
Theron makes a much better queen than Julia Roberts did in “Mirror Mirror” and Hemsworth is fine, too.
The film’s biggest problem proves to be Stewart, who doesn’t have the range to project a character who is supposed to evolve into a dynamic leader. Stewart has been good in films like “The Runaways,” but here she relies too much on that sulky silent act she’s coasted on as Bella in the “Twilight” films. No matter how hard the film tries, it’s hard to buy Stewart as a match for Theron’s nastiness.
It speaks volumes for “Snow White and the Huntsman” that it actually works despite Stewart’s presence. As is, it is a solid piece of filmmaking, although with a better heroine it could have been much more.
DVD dud of the week
In a week where there’s not much to see on home video, the best of the bunch is “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island” (C-), the latest cinematic adaptation of the works of Jules Verne.
This follow-up to the surprise 2008 hit “Journey to the Center of the Earth” once again makes the most of 3-D technology (which won’t help most viewers on home video), but ultimately feels like a third-rate version of “Jurassic Park.”
“Journey 2” follows Sean (Josh Hutcherson), the nephew of the Brendan Fraser character from the original, who uncovers a message from his grandfather (Michael Caine) that he believes includes the location of Verne’s “Mysterious Island.”
With the help of his stepfather, Hank (Dwayne Johnson), and a father and daughter tour guide team (Luis Guzman and Vanessa Hudgins), Sean sets out on a quest to the South Pacific, determined to find the island and his grandfather.
This is all just mindless eye candy, and I’m not just talking about Hudgins. Director Brad Peyton creates a lot of neat visual tricks on the islands – ranging from miniature elephants to giant lizards and birds. There are a couple of nice sequences, the highlight being a scene with the four main characters hopping a ride on gigantic bees.
But it’s part of a screenplay that never quite clicks on all cylinders. There are too many scenes dealing with relationships that really halt any momentum.
Even with the somewhat thin material, Johnson makes a solid impression. His comic timing and banter with Caine is actually kind of fun. His scenes where he tries to develop a bond with Sean are pretty awkward.
But by the time Johnson pulls out the ukulele and breaks into an impromptu musical number, it’s quite apparent that “Journey 2” hit the end of the road creatively.
“Journey 2: The Mysterious Island” is rated PG for some adventure action, and brief mild language and is now available on DVD.