Art & Culture

Once Upon A Time, long long ago, in a faraway country, there was a young woman who made her name by playing a prostitute with a heart of gold. But now, twenty years have passed, and Julia Roberts is no longer young and fresh, so she has unwisely agreed to appear as the Wicked Queen/Stepmother in a film so bad it should have taken into the forest by the huntsman and chopped up into little pieces.

To make matters worse, there is another Snow White film coming soon, with Charlize Theron and Kristen Stewart, which looks fifty times tougher, leaner and cooler. How Hollywood manages to do this BOGOF thing with movies so often is a mystery, but the curse has struck again, and Mx2 is going to be the loser.

When I tell people a film is bad, the two questions I am asked are a) how bad? and b) why is it so bad? The answer to a) is very very very very bad. Not just ordinarily run of the mill bad, but excruciatingly, nail-scrapingly dreadful. Somewhere near the car crash level of dire. Which leads us to b). Where to start with an explanation?

The script is always a good place to look for problems, and this script is as bad as it gets. It is a genuine mystery to me how something so poorly put together got anywhere near being filmed. The narrative is non-existent, the dialogue is clunky and unfunny, the characters barely one dimensional. Trying to imagine what kind of film the makers were aiming for, the best I can come up with is some kind of cross between The Princess Bride and Twilight. The prevailing tone is camp, with no attempt at realism, or scariness, or romance, or anything really. Roberts plays the Queen who is supposed to be Evil, but fails to achieve an iota of nastiness. Snow White (who is referred to mostly as Snow, as if that was a Christian name) is played by Lily Collins and looks about 12, and has eyebrows that look like a couple of earwigs. The idea that she is the most beautiful woman in the world is preposterous. Armie Hammer (who played the Winklevoss twins in Social Network) has the thankless job of playing the Prince as an idiot, who ends up with his shirt off a lot, and is the subject of Julia's designs. Finally, Nathan Lane has to camp it up even harder as the Queen's right hand man and useless executioner. And there are 7 dwarves who are bandits.

The genius behind this whole thing is Tarsem Singh, whose wonderful film, The Fall, raised hopes that he might be a director of genius. These were dashed by Immortals that was appalling, and this is even worse. Singh's visual signature is to create a country where it is always snowing although no one ever gets cold. The castle is stuck up on an improbable jutting prominence, with a frozen lake beneath. Even the geography makes no sense. There is no connection between individual scenes, and no real belief that anything worth showing is being constructed. I can only imagine what the actors must have thought when they realised what they had let themselves in for, and this certainly won't do anything to help Julia Roberts make a leap forward in her career as she approached the age of 45. Both this film, and last year's Larry Crowne would suggest that she will appear in any old dross. She should think again.


By Phil Raby

Front Row Films

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