By Amanda Ack, Film Critic
Director Tarsem Singh has taken the traditional Snow White tale and jam-packed it with enough gaudy spectacle—including, believe it or not, a Bollywood musical number—to fill a lifetime of fairytales. However, as lovely as that sounds, the overall effect is less than stellar. While the film certainly gives us enough to look at, it provides little else in the way of entertainment, settling for cheap jokes and weak sentiment.
As “Snow White,” Lily Collins is a complete nonentity, which is obviously a bit of a problem, given that she’s the most important person in the film. She certainly looks the part, but there’s a breathy vacuousness to her performance that renders her thoroughly unengaging. Similarly bland is Julia Roberts, who, despite her plum role as the ultimate villainess, aims for comedy but can only manage halfhearted camp.
The only one who really nails it is Armie Hammer. As “Prince Alcott,” he practically bubbles over with buoyant sincerity, giving the character a refreshing, unexpected sense of truth. He’s never less than utterly believable—a quality that is decidedly lacking in the rest of the cast. If there’s a lesson to be learned from his performance, it’s that even the most ridiculous role can be made real, as long as it’s played with honesty.
As for the look of the film, I certainly can’t deny that it’s pretty. The Internet tells me that Tarsem Singh is an acclaimed director of music videos—a fact I find thoroughly unsurprising, given his apparent flair for the visually dramatic. Indeed, he’s crafted a slick little movie here, and even though he doesn’t give us anything we haven’t seen before, he at least makes it aesthetically pleasing. In the end, however, we’re left with the cinematic equivalent of cotton candy: sweet, fluffy and better left to the prepubescents.