The father-and-son Halmi production team, renowned for its opulent television projects, brings vibrantly to life the grimmest of the Grimm Fairytales. “Snow White: The Fairest of Them All” is a unique and lavish production that certainly warrants attention, but parents, make no mistake, this is not for small children.
Even with a TV-PG rating, ABC is making a big mistake airing it as part of its “Wonderful World of Disney.” This often nightmarish version from the writer of “Edward Scissorhands” and “The Addams Family” is more in keeping with the original story than Disney’s animated classic. And if the evil queen/witch wasn’t scary enough, Thompson and her co-scripter Julie Hickson have added the Green Eyed-One, a satanic messenger who grants wishes.
The success of theatricals such as “Harry Potter” and “The Lord of the Rings” has renewed interest in fantasy entertainment and revived the genre on television as well. But either there is a clear misconception of the maturity level of the average 6-year-old or this “Snow White” has been grossly mismarketed.
Production designer David Brisbin has created a magical kingdom that is equal parts gingerbread baroque and David Lynch, and Thompson clearly relishes working in this eccentric world. So does Miranda Richardson as Queen Elspeth, who virtually steals the show from the doe-eyed Kristin Kreuk as the ethereal Snow White.
Unlike recent reworkings of classic fairytales, this account sticks close to the story of the motherless girl, born with great beauty, who becomes the object of her stepmother’s envy. The twist here is that Queen Elspeth once was a nasty, ugly witch. When her brother, the Green-Eyed One (Clancy Brown), offers her the throne in an attempt to fulfill the wish of a lonely widower (Tom Irwin as Snow White’s father, John), she accepts the deal when she is given the gift of beauty. Once transformed, the Queen becomes obsessed with looks and adoration.
But Snow White’s beauty eventually eclipses that of Elspeth, and the queen calls for her execution. The girl escapes death more than once with the help of seven rainbow-clad dwarves named after the days of the week. The rest, as they say, is history.
Of all the fairytale characters, Snow White comes off as the most victimized of the lot, and Kreuk does little to upgrade that image. Too often her Snow White appears pouty instead of justifiably angry at the loss of her father’s attention.
Richardson delivers a magnificently villainous performance. Her continuous chants into the magic mirror should raise a few neck hairs and goosebumps. Irwin has the most thankless role, playing the dopey, spellbound father for laughs in a fairly humorless rendition.
The movie is a technical marvel with skillful but gruesome makeup and costumes from Norma Hill Patton, Gitte Axen and Nancy Bryant, respectively.