June 7, 2012

Darker 'Snow White' hits the mark


---- — The recent Julia Roberts-fueled “Mirror Mirror” didn’t add anything to the world of Snow White.

Surprisingly, however, “Snow White and the Huntsman” does.

A darker, more grown-up version of the fairy tale, “Snow White and the Huntsman” hits the mark as a rousing action-adventure fantasy that is definitely not for the G-rated crowd.

As in “Mirror Mirror,” the showiest role once again goes to the wicked queen, and — sorry Julia — Charlize Theron is entirely more wicked than you. Theron’s Queen Ravenna is indeed the fairest of them all, but her milky complexion comes at quite a cost. Let’s just say that, even by the standards of evil queens, she’s vile. Theron glowers and rants and transforms but manages not to quite devolve into camp. She’s fun to watch, and a little scary.

Ravenna kills the beloved king and imprisons her step-daughter, but after a number of years, she realizes that isn’t quite enough. Goaded by a certain magic mirror, the queen decides that consuming Snow White’s living heart is the way to go.

Fortunately, Kristen Stewart’s Snow White is plucky and resourceful. She escapes into a spooky forest, and the adventure is on.

Chris Hemsworth trades in Thor’s hammer for an ax and co-stars as the despondent, drunken huntsman, assigned the task of bringing in Snow White. What chance, though, does he have against her innocence and beauty?

Yes, the movie also has its requisite number of dwarves. This time, they are thugs and thieves, and they’re played by an excellent cast — computer-assisted, scaled-down versions of full-sized performers — including Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone and Toby Jones.

There’s a handsome prince, too, Sam Claflin’s (“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”) dashing William, who has lived for a decade regretting his inability to rescue Snow White. The performances of Hemsworth and Stewart (“Twilight”) don’t really stand out like Theron’s, but Hemsworth handles the action with aplomb, and Stewart manages just enough feisty innocence to pull it off.

“Snow White and the Huntsman” is fairly grim overall, but there are a number of cool and imaginative effects, particularly a faerie-filled forest where the heroes take refuge.

Though the story hits the familiar elements — mirror, apple, dwarf — it’s more of a classic and fairly well-done fantasy adventure than a fairy tale. There are sword fights, battles and monsters. It’s not quite “Lord of the Rings,” but it’s at least “Chronicles of Narnia.”

It may not become the definitive “Snow White,” but it should prove more satisfying than the cartoon for teens and up.

Rental Recommendation: Kristen Stewart is known best for the “Twilight” movies, but she also appears in the family-friendly fantasy comedy “Zathura: A Space Adventure.” Grade: B+.