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You don't have to hate "The Huntsman: Winter's War"

Posted April 27

THE WOODS — Is there anyone going into “The Huntsman: Winter’s War” with high expectations?

There is a sweeping wave of reviews out there right now that pretty accurately outlines what is wrong with the sequel to 2012’s “Snow White and the Huntsman.” It’s lazy, laden with painful dialogue and trips over clumsy effects. There is, in fact, no war, unless that’s some metaphor for the Ice Queen’s heart, and the story drifts with no urgency until it finally arrives at a lackluster battle between the queens.

All those things are true.

However, if you can embrace those things — if you can give “Winter’s War” the same chance you give some weekend afternoon, low budget, sci-fi television movie you come across when you’re too tired to move from the couch and the remote is a good six steps away — well, you might just have a good time at the movies this weekend.

Like always, let’s chat about the highlights:

The Premise

As this section always goes, skip ahead if you want to remain spoiler free.

In case you missed “Snow White and the Huntsman,” that movie pretty much wrapped up with the death of the evil Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron). What that movie didn’t tell you however, is Ravenna has a sister, Freya (Emily Blunt), who once believed in love and happily-ever-afters. When love betrays Freya, anger unlocks her ice-wielding magic, and with her new powers she vows to stop the world from falling in love.

Enter Eric the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) and eventual love of his life Sara (Jessica Chastain). Before anyone ever heard of Snow White, the two were mighty soldiers in Freya’s anti-love army. When Eric and Sara fall in love, they are discovered, separated and sentenced to death — which turns out in Eric’s case to be more of an exile. This leads us into the events of “Snow White and the Huntsman.”

When we find Eric again, Queen Snow White asks Eric to take Ravenna’s hypnotic mirror far away, and as it turns out, said mirror is exactly the item Freya’s army is looking for. Action and adventure ensue.

Movie mashups

Now that we’ve got the convoluted, and yet still not all that interesting storyline out of the way, let me try and make a case for it.

If we can shelve all of the crazy plot decisions and hyper-melodramatic lines like “If she couldn’t raise a child she would raise an army,” we’re left with something really interesting — recess.

“Winter’s War” unfolds like playtime in your early childhood schoolyard. You have one kid who really wants to play “Frozen,” and another kid who wants to play "Lord of the Rings." When forced to play together, Frozen kid insists on being Elsa, and Lord of the Rings kid wants to go on a long walk with a hypnotic item that needs to be destroyed. Until the bell rings, the two fight about what happens next and what they end up with is “Winter’s War.”

Will you like “Winter’s War?” Ask yourself first if you liked those games in grade school.

The cast

Throughout the entire movie I was torn between feeling really bad for the cast and wondering if they were having a good time. The performances don’t suggest anyone showed up just to collect a paycheck, and their hackneyed lines are delivered with a reasonable level of sincerity. So in the end, I was simply impressed.

If they did hate every moment of their time on “Winter’s War,” they get a thumbs up for convincingly covering up their justifiable disdain. If instead, they were able to forget the script and make the experience as fun as possible, good for them. In fact, I hope they eventually write self-help books because the world could use more of their whistle-while-you-work attitudes.

Conclusion

You knew before you clicked on this article that “Winter’s War” probably isn’t a great movie. But I choose to believe you’re reading this because there’s some small hope in your heart that it can still be a fun matinee lunch date, and it can be. There are some funny lines, Hemsworth and Chastain manage some believable chemistry, and who doesn’t like Emily Blunt?

But that little bit of hope comes with an obligatory warning that everything you’ve heard about how bad the movie is, in most cases, correct. If you’re having a bad day and a friend of yours says, “Let’s go check out 'Winter’s War,'" that’s a recipe for disaster. If, on the other hand, you’re having one of those up-for-anything kind of days, you’ll be okay.

In the end, you’re not missing anything by waiting for the RedBox or Netflix releases. Actually, you’re not missing anything if you never get around to seeing this movie. But there’s plenty of room for you to have a good time with “Winter’s War,” so if you have to go, try and give into it’s childlike randomness.

Travis has been covering movie news, film reviews and live events for Deseret News and KSL.com since 2010 and currently keeps movie fans up to date with news and local events at www.Utah.film. Follow Travis on Twitter @tspoppleton.

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