Once upon a time there was a girl named Snow White (Lily Collins), who was a princess born to a King, although her mother the Queen died while giving birth. This meant the King remarried to Snow's stepmother (Julia Roberts) who did her best to run the place the way she wanted, a task which became all the easier once her husband was forced into battle in the surrounding forests and disappeared, presumed dead. The new Queen was not impressed with her stepdaughter and saw to it that she spent most of her time in her bedroom, out of her sight, but when Snow's eighteenth birthday came around...
Let's just say the girl's expectations were both quashed, and surpassed, in that order as she worked out a way to leave her castle home for a while and investigate what was up with the Kingdom by all rights she should have inherited. There were two Snow White movies out within a matter of months in 2012, and Snow White and the Huntsman was the one which garnered most of the attention, though this version wasn't a complete financial failure even if it did come off as the lesser of the two. And yet, there were a plucky band of fans who responded to its tries at creating a Princess Bride for the twenty-first century, thinking this wasn't so bad after all.
It was true that in its sense of humour it owed something to the Shrek franchise, though thankfully without those films' insistence on lazy pop culture references substituting actual humour, but on the downside, this did pile on the snark rather than embellishing with wit. Which if you were in the mood for a sarcastic variation on a Grimm's fairy tale wouldn't seem like such a bad thing, but how many people were when it came down to it? A better bet might have been to embrace the laughter and get a lot more British talent in, thereby turning it into something more akin to pantomime: all it needed were a few more "Oh no it isn't!" "Oh yes it is!" and "He's behind you!" to get on the right track.
Or if not the right track, certainly one with more idea of tradition than this straining for too cool for school aloofness was exhibiting. Director Tarsem Singh, a man most known for his way with a dreamy visual, kept things setbound and looking it, which leant on the artificiality of the fantasy in another step back from encouraging the audience to take this as seriously as the source dictated. It was as if the producers thought, nobody will accept a straightforward telling of a fable these days, it's embarrassing to believe in that stuff, let's cover ourselves by having a get out clause where they can enjoy the movie without admitting they really wanted to see this played out in sincere fashion.
Perhaps the least sincere fairy tale in recent memory, yet with all these factors going against it, the integrity of this pulled through no matter how the screenwriters overdid it, adding complications to earn their money as creators of something original when it was really steeped in tradition and would have been better remembering that. Luckily, the cast acted as if they did indeed want to believe in the power of these archetypes, so if the psychological approach of so many revisionist readings was out the window, Roberts was appropriately sneering as the wicked, tax-squandering Queen (though what accent was she having a crack at?), Collins displayed Snow White's mettle as well as her more demure qualities (and a magnificent pair of eyebrows), and Armie Hammer as the hapless Prince was charmingly self-deprecating, not to mention the dwarves who made something worthwhile out of the most basic traits. There were even times when the gags were pretty amusing as intended; it was a curious yarn resisting the courage of its convictions, yet entertained almost in spite of itself. Music by Alan Menken.