Reviewers complain that Charlize Theron's evil queen is over the top and the film is a muddle, but praise the visual style
America's top critics do not think "Snow White and the Huntsman" is the fairest of them all.
Universal's big budget re-imagining of the fairy tale classic earned a 47 percent "rotten" score on critics aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, with many reviewers knocking the fantasy's lugubrious pacing and the performances of actresses Charlize Theron and Kristen Stewart.
TheWrap's Alonso Duralde said Stewart's Snow White, here refashioned as a warrior, is too reminiscent of her twitchy "Twilight" character Bella Swann and would have a hard time convincing people to follow her to Forever 21, let alone storm a castle.
Duralde was gentler with Theron's wicked queen, but still called the mirror-gazing performance hammy.
"There will be lots of versions of Theron’s evil queen running around West Hollywood and Chelsea this Halloween; it’s a performance that’s about one part Tilda Swinton to 30 parts Faye Dunaway, and it’s the sort of over-the-top craziness that spawns midnight screenings for drunken audiences," Duralde wrote.
For Slate's Dana Stevens, the whole enterprise boiled down to one epic missed opportunity.
"Snow White and the Huntsman, the first feature from British commercial director Rupert Sanders, has its work cut out for it if it wants to be a truly dull piece of junk—but it manages," Stevens wrote.
Stevens' cohort at the Village Voice, Nick Pinkerton, complained that the film, while visually rich, was incoherent and overly long.
"But for all this Snow White's visual ornamentation, there's no sense of narrative priority—the filmmakers can't see the Dark Forest for the trees," Pinkerton wrote.
However, a few members of the critical choir broke with the pack to praise first-time director Rupert Sanders' visual flair and dark take on the Snow White story.
Among those delighted and not dulled by the special effects extravaganza was New York magazine's David Edelstein, who had reservations with the structure of the film, but ultimately found it satisfying.
"Director Rupert Sanders comes from the world of commercials and Xbox games: He’s good with images and not good at all at making them flow together, which means lots of choppy swordplay and tacky slow motion," Edelstein wrote. "But the movie’s revisionist tone is startlingly enough to carry you along."
Likewise, A.O. Scott in the New York Times, hailed Stewart's revisionist take on Snow White as an ass-kicking leader of men, not just a demure beauty.
"Her Snow White is part of an interesting new breed of warrior princesses — Katniss Everdeen is their current leader — whose ascendance reflects the convergence of commercial calculations and cultural longings. Long may they reign," Scott wrote.