Low expectations can work in a movie’s favor. I’m not generally a fan of “reimaginings” of classic tales (reference 2011’s execrable Red Riding Hood), and I groaned when I first saw the title. But I left the theater feeling thoroughly entertained. This one works. Inventive and well paced, call it a kind of compact LOTR. Snow White (Twilight’s Kristen Stewart) escapes from her evil stepmother, Queen Ravella (a standout Charlize Theron), and braves myriad dangers to reach a rebel duke, aided by a huntsman originally hired by Ravella to track and kill her (Chris Hemsworth, understated and far less annoying than in Thor). Rounding out the main cast is a creepy Sam Spruell as the queen’s space-case, dirty-deeds brother. The splendid CGI properly supports the story. Both the menace-oozing Dark Forest (where Snow stares down a vicious troll) and the astonishing Fairy Kingdom are gorgeously rendered and absolutely riveting. Another plus is that the eight (!) grizzled dwarves are played by several of Britain’s top actors, including Ian McShane, Ray Winstone, Bob Hoskins, Toby Jones, Eddie Marsan and even Nick Frost. But don’t be expecting “Hi ho, hi ho!” Way too dark and scary for little kids.
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