It's been a rewarding decade for fans of the fractured fairy tale sub-genre. Your thirst for snarky, self-aware interpretations of classic children's morality tales has been noted by Hollywood. They gave you all those Shreks, the Hoodwinked films, Happily N'Ever After and whatever that miserablist, Twilight-y Red Riding Hood movie was supposed to be. But if you think that enough might finally be enough, that this trend would be on the wane by now, you'd be wrong. It's invaded TV, too, with reasonably popular shows like Grimm and Once Upon a Time traveling into more grown-up territory. So why not go ahead and make a couple of Snow White movies, one an action-adventure film (Snow White and the Huntsman comes later this summer) and another a sub-Tim Burton fantasy-comedy that's all about the Evil Queen? What could go wrong? Well, I have a short list of what went wrong:
* Julia Roberts -- I'm a fan of hers. I like it when she laughs and shows off that wide, wide mouth of teeth. I like that she knows she's a movie star. But on one very real level, because she has that self-knowledge, no matter who she's playing on screen is really just an extension of Julia Roberts. And that's why the Evil Queen is the wrong role for her. RuPaul, on the other hand...
* Armie Hammer -- More wrongheaded casting. Funny, obnoxious, entitled twin jocks in The Social Network? Yes. A bumbling prince who has to behave like a puppy for a very long stretch of the film, including a scene where he repeatedly licks Roberts's face, all but humping her leg in the process? No. When you hire an actor for his chest (he's frequently shirtless here) sometimes that's all you get.
* Lily Collins -- Not one thing wrong with her. She's sweet and seems game. Could very well be a good actress. And she is given nothing at all to do. Even when the film tries to shift gears into a story about her transformation into a ninja warrior who finds within herself the strength to escape the Evil Queen's clutches, the camera can't cut away from her enough.
* Tarsem Singh -- Those last three problems are actually all his fault. As a director, he's proven that he has no concern for story. He's a visual stylist who refuses to focus on anything except how to make his screen universe look extra cool. So he puts Roberts and Collins into beautiful gowns (except when he's smearing bird feces on Roberts' face or delivering the ultimate punishment of elderly female wrinkles), shoots close-ups of elaborate doorknobs, throws life-size marionettes into the action for no good reason, puts the seven dwarves on stilts to show off a set of matching black accordion-pleat battle costumes, and just generally moves humans around like little puppets inside elaborate dioramas. Tack on a Bollywood-ish musical number over the closing credits? Why not? He's a rebel, man. A visionary. And at least in a film like Immortals or The Cell, the terrible script isn't trying to elicit intentional laughs. His pass at comedy is airless and joyless, with almost no feel for comic beats when Nathan Lane or the seven dwarves aren't bumbling around. In 108 minutes I laughed once, fewer times than when I saw Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector or Just Go with It. That means when you question the comedy mirror, you run the risk of it telling you that Adam Sandler is the fairest of them all.