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Snow White and the Huntsman ***

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As Queen Ravenna, the vicious usurper in Snow White and the Huntsman, Charlize Theron looks so fabulous that her Oscar-winner, Aileen Wuornos in Monster, seems almost another species. An empress of narcissism, Ravenna insists on being “the fairest of all,” and it’s a wonder that she never fire-bombs Donald Trump’s hair. For a long time she looks more fair than Snow White (Kristen Stewart), but the younger beauty has a classy advantage, because Stewart also projects kindness and courage.

Rupert Sanders’s big fantasy lumbers at first, as if trying to cram The Adventures of Robin Hood into Lord of the Rings. But then Snow White crystallizes her regal destiny, helped by the hunky Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth, who seems like a slightly obtuse Sean Connery). The story enters a magic forest, where mushrooms have eyes and fairies sprout from birds. Gnarly but manly dwarves are acted, with digital help, by such delightful British veterans as Bob Hoskins, Eddie Marsan, Ian McShane, Ray Winstone, and Toby Jones. The little guys should all be knighted Sir Dwarf.

This film may be less for fairy tale fans than action buffs who think the Middle Ages was just a long, dirty rehearsal for Tolkien blockbusters. The dialogue wears some clanking armor (“I would rather die today than live another day of this death”), but the movie entertains. Strong effects, good design, and an exciting use of nature help to empower Stewart and Theron, who inject a rich, double dose of feminism.

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