'Huntsman' prequel at times sleepy and dopey
Except for the part about the perverted prince who rides through the forest and kisses a dead girl, the Brothers Grimm’s "Snow White" is essentially a tale for children.
Universal had pretty good luck with its dark retelling in 2012's "Snow White and the Huntsman" starring Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth as the leads and Charlize Theron as Snow White’s evil stepmother. Not wanting to leave any cash on the table, the studio returned with Hemsworth and Theron in a prequel, "The Huntsman – Winter’s War," which is at times both sleepy and dopey.
Jessica Chastain, who’s developed a solid body of work in a relatively short time ("The Help," "Zero Dark Thirty," "The Martian") is Sara, one of the children the evil queen’s sister Freya (Emily Blunt) takes in when her own child is killed, though Freya’s benevolence is not without limits. The jilted Ice Queen has but one rule for the orphans she trains for her army: Do not love.
Easier said than done for the two most talented huntsmen Sara and Eric (Hemsworth) who end up on her wrong side. After believing Sara to have been killed, Eric makes his way to the forest, where he takes up with some comical mercenary dwarves to locate and recover the magic mirror from the preposterous ape/ram-like beasts who guard it.
If they were going for a sort of anti-"Frozen" vibe, they should have just let it go. Fairy tales make for dicey storylines. Jeremy Renner’s "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters" found a unique approach, while that same year Ewan McGregor’s "Jack the Giant Killer" was fee-fi-ho-hum.
Here, there is great banter between the dwarves, particularly when they talk about their women. But this telling leaves too much of the question "Why did you make this movie?" unanswered.
The action is steady, though some of the effects are overdone. Theron and Emily Blunt take themselves way too seriously and drag down the fun. Chastain is not well cast and doesn’t seem to enjoy herself. Hemsworth, though, can always be counted on to raise the prospects of a role (see sidebar), and here he does not disappoint.
Not a horrible film if this is your thing, but it's not mine.
Beyond Thor: Essential Chris Hemsworth
I have a special affinity for Chris Hemsworth. At the beach, I am frequently compared to him … usually like this: "Put your shirt on, brah, you’re no Chris Hemsworth!" (Hey, it counts!)
Anyway, the average moviegoer could be forgiven for thinking the chiseled Australian actor has had little time but to bring down the thunder as Thor in four Marvel blockbusters. He hit the ground running in 2009 as Captain Kirk’s father in the J. J. Abrams’ reboot of "Star Trek" and hasn't let up:
"Red Dawn" (2009)
Hemsworth and some neighborhood buddies single-handedly beat-back a North Korean invasion. It was a remake of the 1984 classic that starred Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen, though not as fresh.
An awards-caliber (even if it was snubbed) high-octane biopic of the original Fast and Furious rival Formula-1 drivers James Hunt (Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) from director Ron Howard. Engaging and invigorating.
"In the Heart of the Sea" (2015)
Speaking of Ron Howard snubs … this time Hemsworth is Owen Chase, first mate on the whaling ship Essex whose story inspired Herman Melville’s "Moby Dick." Easier than reading the book, so there's that.
Hemsworth flexed his comic chops (and, of course his sick pecs) for Rusty Griswold’s wife Debbie (Christina Applegate) in this no-too-shabby franchise resurrection that starred Ed Helms. Hemsworth gets another chance to crack us up later this year in Paul Feig’sall-female "Ghostbusters" as Kevin the receptionist.