"Never mind her. She wouldn't know pleasure if it pinched her."
Director Caroline Thompson has written (in collaboration with Julie Hickson) her own version of the Snow White fairy tale and it is an interesting spin on the Brothers Grimm legend. This version takes us back to Snow White's birth, in the course of which her mother dies, and starving father John and the young baby find themselves on the verge of death in a snow-covered field. John's tears appear to melt the snow and that awakens a sleeping genie named the Green-Eyed One. In apparent gratitude, the genie grants John three wishes that provide milk for the baby, a kingdom for John to rule, and a wife to sit beside him as queen. But there's a twist. The Green-Eyed One's ugly sister Elspeth is made to appear beautiful by one of his spells and then ensconced as John's queen. From there it's downhill for Snow White, who grows into a beautiful young woman, only to be tormented by the evil queen, who of course is jealous that Snow White rather than herself may be the most beautiful person in the land.
There's a certain charm to this film and it's been thoughtfully developed by director Thompson. The plot line is quite interesting and some of the characters are very well done, from the Green-Eyed One to the seven dwarfs who are named after days of the week and given personalities according to an old rhyme (Monday's child is fair of face, etcetera). The well-known little person Warwick Davis (Return of the Jedi, Willow) plays one of the dwarfs, while in a novel twist, familiar character actor Vincent Schiavelli, who's a person of normal height, plays another. Miranda Richardson is deliciously evil as the jealous queen, but a major disappointment is Kristin Kreuk (of television's Smallville) in the central role as Snow White. She's pretty enough for the role, but she lacks any personality whatsoever. That's a major problem because the film sags whenever she's on screen, and she's on for a lot of the time. If you find yourself nodding off during the film, that's one reason. A distraction in the film is some of the dialogue, which tries to be contemporary and hip at times, but just ends up sounding out of place. I think overall this is a worthy try that just doesn't completely come off. Still, if you're feeling mellow and want to try something that's a little different and not too taxing on the brain, you could do much worse. The worst thing that can happen is that you'll get lulled to sleep by the rather haunting melody that recurs throughout the film.
The film is a Hallmark production originally made for television. Accordingly, Artisan provides a full frame transfer and it looks very good indeed. Colours are quite vibrant (and this is a really colourful film) with the image generally looking very clean and sharp throughout. Blacks are very solid and whites are really white. Shadow detail is excellent. Edge enhancement is not an issue. There is a Dolby Digital 5.0 Surround English track that does a nice job of delivering both dialogue and music. There's some minor separation apparent, but little use of the surrounds. A 2.0 Surround English track is also provided, but there are no subtitles included on the disc. Artisan supplements the film with an interesting making-of featurette that focuses on the director and a dozen brief cast and crew biographies. The one for Kristin Kreuk includes a link to a short Neutrogena commercial that features her.
[Editor's Note: Compulsive Tim Burton fan that I am, I am obliged to point out the numerous Burton connections in this film. Two actors from his films appear: Miranda Richardson from Sleepy Hollow and Vincent Schiavelli from Batman Returns. Writer/director Caroline Thompson wrote Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas. But, the most significant connection is writer Julie Hickson. Back when Burton was toiling away in Disney's animation department, she championed his creativity. She produced his short film Frankenweenie and co-wrote (with Burton) the episode of Faerie Tale Theater he directed—an adaptation of "Hansel and Gretel" (with kung fu!). The two even dated for a time.]
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