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Snow White and the Huntsman & Mirror Mirror

Snow White and the Huntsman is nominated for Best Visual Effects at the 85th Annual Academy Awards

Both films are nominated for Best Costume Design at the 85th Annual Academy Awards 

I don’t know why I do it to myself…I just do. In my efforts to be as completist as possible for my upcoming Super Sunday(forget about that silly ball game they played on February 3rd…February 24th is the most exciting contest of the year!), I sometimes purposefully watch known crap. As it is, I’m still going to miss “The Impossible”, “Hitchcock”, “The Gatekeepers”, “Chasing Ice” and “A Royal Affair” before the Big Kahuna, and more than half of them are probably very good. I’ll catch up with those post-Oscar…there’s only so much time. I’m also not counting the 3 foreign film nominees that hadn’t even opened yet in the New York area as of mid-February…it’s always the toughest category to view in full, pre-ceremony. Regardless, I’ve now watched 73 2012 releases over the last twelve months in advance of this Sunday’s big show, and I fully expect it to be 74 by the weekend. That’s the 64 seen by February 1st upon publication of the Top Ten, and an additional dime bag since. I do slave for my audience…especially when sitting through detritus like this duo. Anyway, I have no one to blame but myself. Also, I’m trying to figure out if I’m not respecting “little people”(and being sizist)by saying that the dwarves were the best part of both features. Well, being that only one of the films actually cast diminutive performers, I’m going to give myself a pass. It just so happens that both sets of actors inhabiting those roles were the most spirited and entertaining thing in each movie. But both films are almost charmless failures, so it’s all for naught.

“Snow White and the Huntsman” was the bigger moneymaker of the two(almost 400 million worldwide), and stars “Twilight” goddess Kristen Stewart as Snow. Listen, I think Ms. Stewart is pretty darn hot…so as a man, yeah, I get it. I was also fond of her past performances in “Into the Wild”, “Adventureland” and especially as Joan Jett in 2010’s “The Runaways”. But she just flat-out stinks in this. No presence, no gravitas, no character arc. There’s a scene, obviously modeled after Henry V’s St. Crispin’s Day Speech, where Snow White attempts to pump up and rally her troops(yes, troops…this ain’t the Disney animation, folks). It’s downright embarrassing. She’s just yelling. Watch Kenneth Branagh in his 1989 adaptation of Shakespeare’s play to see how it should be done. “Snow White and the Huntsman” was directed by some dummy named Rupert Sanders, who had never directed a feature before, and then proceeded to get more press for sleeping with his star(Ms. Stewart, of course)—tabloid fodder that broke up his marriage and her relationship with her “Twilight” co-star, Robert Pattinson. Whatever. Charlize Theron overacts wildly as the wicked stepmother, and the talented Chris Hemsworth simply glowers as Eric the Huntsman. As for the controversial move of casting non-little people as the dwarves—how could I not enjoy the antics of masterful actors like, Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Toby Jones, Eddie Marsan and Ray Winstone. But I understand the beef. If it’s any consolation, at least a group of actual little people actors won’t have this clunker on their respective resumes. There’s something to be said for that, I guess. “Mirror Mirror” casts an actress named Lily Collins as Snow, and she’s a marginal improvement over Ms. Stewart. This film is more farcical, but if you don’t do farce correctly…  I usually like Armie Hammer’s work, but I’ll be damned if I can figure out what he was trying to accomplish with his clumsy Prince Alcott. Julia Roberts chews some scenery, but never connects as S.W.’s evil stepmother Queen, and Nathan Lane just goes through the motions as her executive bootlicker. The dwarves are real in this version, and you’ll enjoy spotting some familiar faces in performers such as Danny Woodburn, Martin Klebba, Jordan Prentice and Mark Povinelli. They occasionally inject some heat into this tepid affair, but again—it’s a lost cause. “Mirror Mirror” is a labored enterprise, and director Tarsem Singh has yet to show me that he can do anything beyond making things look pretty. Depth continues to evade him.

Both of these works were created by helmers who made their initial impact as commercial directors. Neither seems to have a grasp on the difference between 30-second collages of moving images and two-hour character-driven features. To this critic, anyway. “Snow White and the Huntsman” is the darker, adventure-type tale and “Mirror Mirror” is the frothy, rambunctious fairy tale. Neither rises to the occasion nearly often enough to be worth a look from even the most ardent “Snow White” enthusiast. It’s been 75 years since 1937, but Disney and Adriana Caselotti still represent the elite for this particular fantasy. For now, this tandem simply represents the two worst films I’ve seen from last year.     Grades for both:  C-

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