(director: Tarsem Singh; screenwriters: Marc Klein/Jason Keller/based on a story by Melisa Wallack; cinematographer: Brendan Galvin; editors: Robert Duffy/Nick Moore; music: Alan Menken; cast: Julia Roberts (the Queen), Lily Collins (Snow White), Armie Hammer (Prince Alcott), Nathan Lane (Brighton), Sean Bean (the King); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Bernie Goldmann/Ryan Kavanaugh/Brett Ratner;Relativity Media; 2012)

“The sluggish fairy tale movie fails to be uplifting.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Former musical video director, India-born, London residing, Tarsem Singh (“Immortals”/”The Fall”/”The Cell”), directs a flawed, stylish (eye-popping sets, colorful costumes & trippy imagery), comic and cheeky version of the Brothers Grimm “once upon a time” fairy tale and updates the often-told tale by having the heroine use a dagger to ensure her happy ending. It’s based on a story by Melisa Wallack and is written by Marc Klein and Jason Keller. At times the film drags and the dramatic events become dull and take second place to the gorgeous stage designs. Though it’s always watchable, it has little emotional impact, the Snow White performer is stiff, the wicked Queen performance is strained and the story line is executed so weakly it never gets the viewer to care about any of the characters and, what seems most out of place, is that Snow White has to fight against an evil empire in a way that seems more like a cartoonish superhero than a fairy tale heroine.

The beloved King (Sean Bean) becomes a widower after his wife dies at childbirth. But the beautiful child, named Snow White (Lily Collins, daughter of Phil Collins), lives and is adored by her dad. Some eight years later the King falls under a magical spell and marries the new Queen (Julia Roberts), who he deems to be the most beautiful woman in the world. One day the King rides out in the forest and never returns. Snow White is distraught, missing her kind father, as the Queen turns out to be a wicked despot, whose insanity, vanity and greed causes the town to suffer severe poverty and for Snow White to be mistreated and kept a shut-in her bedroom. The delusional mad-woman power-hungry Queen talks to her reflection in the mirror and relies on black magic to give her strength to rule.

When the princess turns 18, she becomes restless and sneaks into town. She finds a town that was joyous under her father’s rule now is grief-stricken because high taxes are used to support the Queen’s lavish lifestyle instead of to feed the starving people. In the woods Snow bumps into the dashing Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer), visiting from Spain, and the two fall in love at first sight. But the Queen also sets her sights on marrying the Prince and has her executive bootlicker Brighton (Nathan Lane) take Snow out to the woods and dispose of her. But Brighton, as a favor to her father, lets her run away and gives her dad’s magic dagger to use in an emergency. In the woods Snow befriends the outcast rowdy band of thieves, “the seven dwarfs,” and they team up to take down the wicked Queen and to fight in battle the terrible beast in the forest.

The moves toward making Snow White a feminism tale never take hold as something substantial, while the love story never shows any true sparkle between such bland lovers. Changing the narrative to get in a few sour jokes doesn’t seem to be worth the effort, as in the end the sluggish fairy tale movie fails to be uplifting or worth the effort of redoing it.