It shouldn’t come as a surprise in these days of remakes and reboots that Hollywood turns once again to the Snow White fairy tale. This is the first of the two major releases this year touching on the well-loved tale. With a significantly more sophisticated teen and pre teen audience out there a film cannot be idly thrown together any more and expect to engage with the audience and make a profit. So can a star cast, a familiar tale and the equivalent of a palace full of money turn out something that appeals to the market it is aimed at?
The tale opens with the usual preamble regarding the fairy tale. Snow White (Lily Collins, daughter of Phil) is the eighteen year old heroine of the tale. She is living in isolation in the Palace under the care of her (evil?) step mother (Julia Roberts). Her father went to war several years earlier and is lost, presumed dead. The Queen rules the kingdom and is, of course, jealous of the young and beautiful princess. Into the Kingdom comes the handsome prince Alcott (Armie Hammer). He is robbed by a band of (seven) giant dwarfs and left in the dark forest. He is rescued by our heroine and travels to the palace to present himself to the Queen. Meanwhile Snow White is finding out how harsh life has become for the subjects of the Queen. Of course this annoys the Queen when she is informed. The loyal manservant Brighton (Nathan Lane) is instructed to take Snow White into the woods and kill her. He cannot and allows her to run away. As she goes she literally bumps into the dwarfs. After initial scepticism on their parts they allow Snow White to stay with them and agree to help her overthrow the Queen, reclaim the kingdom and get it on with the handsome Prince who by this time has caught the eye of the Queen.
What the film lacks in originality in plot it makes up for in many other ways. It looks fantastic. From the beginning there is a very high CGI element to the look. An animated overture sets the scene and slips seamlessly into live action. It gives the film a unique look which is perfect for the theme and story. The landscapes and settings are all beautifully rendered It looks unreal and artificial which is perfect for a fairy tale. The set dressing and costumes are all imaginative and with a great deal of detail. The Queens wedding dress made of feathers is something to behold.
Julia Roberts cast in against type as a baddie is a revelation in the role. She clearly enjoys the change and every line she utters is dripping in sarcasm. It is an excellent comic performance. Her interactions with the mystic mirror are particularly noteworthy.
Having only previously seen Lily Collins in the less than brilliant Priest (2010), her performance was rather good. She is in most scenes and has a commanding enough presence to carry them.I think we shall see a lot more of her in the next few years. Another performance of note came from Armie Hammer. With a distinctive voice, Prince Charming looks and screen persona in a number of high-profile roles recently, I think this is definitely Hammer time again (sorry about that!).
Overall a film that overcomes its limitations and expectations to deliver an enjoyable and visually attractive spectacle. recommend.