Universal Pictures is still looking for its next big success story following "Dr. Suess' The Lorax," but it may not find it in "Snow White & The Huntsman."
That is if moviegoers listen to critics, who were a bit wishy-washy on the Rupert Sanders fairy tale reboot.
"'Snow White & the Huntsman' is one of those movies that makes for a fantastic trailer. Much beyond that can feel like repeat viewing," said USA Today critic Scott Bowles. "This should be slam-dunk stuff. The twist is believable and a gateway to jaw-dropping fight scenes. But as soon as the film starts to hum, it's slowed by psychoanalysis and manic acting."
It was difficult for The Wrap's Alonso Duralde not to agree.
"While this newest fairy tale adaptation is a strong and more coherent movie than ['Alice in Wonderland'] (not much of a feat there), it's still something of a beautiful mess, with too many characters, occasionally sluggish pacing and a tone that veers frenetically between intense and campy," he wrote.
But not all critics were veering into the negative. Los Angeles Times critic Betsy Sharkey called the fairy tale outing "fierce."
The film "is a baroque enchantment filled with dazzling darkness, desultory dwarfs, demonic trolls and beastly fairies," Sharkey said. "It is an absolute wonder to watch, and creates a warrior princess for the ages. But what this revisionist fairy tale does not give us is a passionate love -- its kisses are as chaste as the snow is white."
Stephanie Zacharek of Movieline singled out Twilight franchise actress Kristen Stewart's portrayal of Snow White as "feisty, but boring."
"This Snow White is clearly designed to be a young woman of agency, not a girly-girl victim who waits around for a prince to save her," Zacharek said. "The problem is that she's so admirable, so aggressively self-reliant, so beloved and respected by little forest animals as well as simple-minded villagers, that she barely has time to be a woman.
"Stewart is laced so tightly into her character that she can hardly breathe, let alone give a performance. Luckily, Charlize Theron -- as the really, really wicked Queen Ravenna -- is on hand to give us something to watch, and boy, does she."
Theron, who won an Oscar in 2004 for "Monster" and was nominated for another one in 2006 for "North Country," received a lot of praise for her portrayal of the evil witch queen that is focused on destroying Snow White because of her beauty.
Theron, said Philadelphia Inquirer critic Steven Rea, "has a grand old time, sexy, sinister, soliloquizing before a giant gong-shaped mirror, plotting with her lecherous brother, dressed in elegant capes, cloaks and gowns. Her slip-on talons, used to pluck the hearts out of little birds are quite practical too.
"If Theron has to deliver a few laughably bad lines (Ravenna wants 'immortality forever' as opposed to the short-term immortality option), she does so with aplomb."
The root of the film's problems, however, lies in the fact that in its effort to be the next Lord of the Rings or the next "The Hunger Games," this version of Snow White simply forgot at times that it was a fairy tale, and that's what people will look for.
"The production itself is quite impressive," said Milwaukee Journal Sentinel critic Paul Doro. "The special effects are excellent, and there is some spectacular imagery. It's too bad the filmmakers didn't spend more time crafting a compelling heroine and a story with more adventure. A few less heartfelt, melodramatic speeches and a few more trolls would have gone a long way."
"Snow White & the Huntsman" was written by Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock ("The Blind Side") and Hossein Amini ("Drive"). It also stars Chris Hemsworth ("Thor"), Sam Claflin ("Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides"), Sam Spruell ("Ashes to Ashes") and Ian McShane ("Kings").
"The Lorax" has already earned Universal $200 million domestically from the winter, easily surpassing its $70 million budget. However, Universal's most recent entry, the $209 million "Battleship," is limping along with $49.4 million in just about two full weeks, according to The Numbers. It's already a box office bomb.
Two other Universal films still in theaters didn't do too badly. "The Five-Year Engagement" earned $28.1 million in about a month, and is expected to at least make back its $30 million budget domestically. "American Reunion" earned $56.7 million at the box office, moving past its $50 million budget.
The Numbers website predicts "Snow White" to earn about $48 million this weekend, and finish its run with $130 million domestically -- short of its budget. "Men In Black 3" would likely move to second place, dropping to no lower than $22 million, while "Avengers" could compete with possibly $23 million, bringing its overall total to about $555 million.
However, analyst C.S. Strowbridge does not predict the film would reach the $600 million mark domestically -- still some $58 million off of second place "Titanic."
"Snow White & the Huntsman" opens in North America on Friday.
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