Top positive review
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wonderfully surreal for both kids & adults...
on 24 October 2003
Hallmark have been making elaborate made-for-TV productions for some time, but this dark retelling of Snow White is certainly unusual. This is a fairytale the way The Brothers Grimm would have told it, full of life but disctinctly surreal.
John [Tom Irwin] and Josephine are a poor couple living in a forest. After the birth of a daughter, whom they name Snow White, Josephine dies. Trying to protect his child, John becomes trapped in a blizzard. Weeping for his infant, his tears free the Green-Eyed One, a horrifying creature trapped in the ice. Out of gratitude, he grants John a wish, convincing him to wish not only for food and shelter, but to marry a Queen. For the Green-Eyed One has a sister to marry off, and John is granted a lavish castle with the formerly hideous, but now beautiful Elspeth [Miranda Richardson], who soon becomes jealous of her step-daughter's beauty.
Screen writers Caroline Thompson and Julie Hickson are clearly not content to follow the established version of Snow White and embelish their story with a number of new elements, which certainly keeps things interestingly original. It has its own unique charm with a host very well designed characters. Interestingly, both writers have worked with Tim Burton (Hickson and Burton even dated for a time) and the darker influence that mingles with a plot that is generally sweet is sometimes reminiscent of Burton's style, though perhaps not quite so dark. The result is something mellow, without being too taxing to watch.
Queen Elspeth is certainly the most interesting character, due to a delightfully wicked performance by Miranda Richardson. Irwin fails to invoke much sympathy from the audience, and while Kreuk certainly looks the part of the innocent princess, she often lacks screen presence, leaving her character bland and without personality, and making it difficult to empathise with her. Far more enjoyable are the seven dwarfs (Wednesday, you will note, is in fact rather tall to the dismay of some purists, but we discover he is accepted by the others because of his child-like mind, suggesting "height" is not solely about appearances, but is rather about one's mental attitude). Named after the days of the week, and donning colourful clothing, these are quirky but intriguing characters, which much amusing banter between them.
The visual effects are sumptuous throughout, putting some big budget productions to shame through its careful usage, in a particular all effects involving the mirror. The Queen's circular room of mirrors is great, entrapping and distorting characters. The medieval costumes are always perfect, with long flowing sleeves and a perfect fairytale appearance. Sunday's subtle costume and makeup to reflect his half-statue/half-man appearance is excellent. The dwarfs ability to "rainbow" and teleport is also an interestingly conceived idea. The cinematography is equally wonderful, capturing scenes perfectly, and using a palette of bright and bold colours to great effect. Also noteworthy is the Green-Eyed One's makeup, which is truly terrifying, fitting this dark tale of sinister plot twists.
Despite some superfluous threads, such as the glass shard and Snow White's love interest who serves little purpose but to be turned into a bear and wake her at the end, this is a beautiful production, and it is wonderful to see a darker, "Grimm"-er version of this classic tale which is intended for childrens' viewing, not just adults. The whole family can truly enjoy this (in part due to Richardson's performance which even adults cannot find dull!) although the very youngest of children may not appreciate its surreal atmosphere.