Movie Review: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

by David Sokol
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snow white

Rated: G for General Audiences (Bonus material not rated)
Recommended for: ages 6 and up
Run Time: 84 minute

The story of Snow White seeking refuge from her hideous stepmother and befriending the quirky, good-hearted dwarfs is timeless. Snow White, the essence of goodness, is an easy character for the whole family to root for. There are many charming musically driven scenes, such as the "Whistle While You Work" segment when Snow White and her furry friends clean the dusty and cobwebbed home of the dwarfs. They actually make housework look like fun. The dwarfs, working deep in a diamond mine, digging with their picks and shovels, are quite comical and even make their labor look fanciful. But as the clock strikes five, they're off singing "Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it's home from work we go," whistling all the way. There's also the mystery of whether Snow White, who meets her charming prince early in the story, will ever see him again. And young kids will likely want to snuggle up close to a parent when Snow White's frightening stepmother, the Queen, is in the picture. Though made in 1937, the film is sophisticated, running the emotional gamut from sweetly playful to comical to sinister and darkly frightening. Note that when the storybook opens at the beginning of the film, there is no narration of the printed words, so parents will need to read the "once upon a time" setup to children too young to read it themselves.

Kids Will Like:
From start to finish, the look of the film is visually appealing to young eyes. It's fun to watch the adorable creatures -- bunnies, squirrels, birdies, even a diligent little turtle -- all get along and share their mutual love of Snow White. Then there are the dwarfs, each with his own colorful and quirky look and personality. (No wonder they called one Sneezy. And another Dopey. ) They're full of one-liners, too. When they return home and find their abode mysteriously clean, green-hatted Bashful says, "Our cobwebs are missin'." And the bespectacled Doc is always misspeaking. ("Careful men. Search every cook and nanny.") Plus they're fun-loving musicians, as when they dance and sing, er, yodel their way through the delightfully upbeat "The Silly Song" (also called "The Dwarfs' Yodel Song"). And surely kids'll like the heroine, the essence of purity, but she's also quite spirited, such as when she puts on a cute voice with a touch of attitude while first speaking to the scowling Grumpy.

Parents Will Like:
The story is fast moving, and it's easy to get caught up in its story and such timeless songs as "Whistle While You Work," "Heigh-Ho," and "Some Day My Prince Will Come." The scene where Snow White insists that the dwarfs wash before she'll feed them dinner is a hoot, especially with Grumpy stubbornly holding out. For the dwarfs, washing with soap and water ("it's wet!") is a novel but satisfying adventure. The dwarfs really like Snow White, even giving up their upstairs beds for her, leading to a hilarious snore-fest downstairs. Ultimately, the movie unfolds with good prevailing over evil, though there's considerable tension and plenty of comic relief along the way.

Heads Up:
Pretty much any scene involving the queen can be intense. Her scheme to kill sweet Snow White in the woods, and have her heart returned as proof, is frightening. Even scarier, barely nine minutes into the movie, is the outdoor scene where the huntsman, who's standing behind Snow White, pulls out his knife (she's innocently talking to a little bird at the time), and looks as if he's really capable of killing her. He's unable to kill her and sends her running through the dark forest, where she encounters many frightening creatures. Later, when the dwarfs first realize there's a stranger in their house, they threaten to kill it ("off with its head," "chop it to pieces"), thinking "it" is some kind of monster. They nearly pounce on the exhausted sleeping beauty with their clubs and pick-axes, until she's revealed as delicate slumbering Snow White.

The dwarfs themselves are fun, peculiar characters, but the fact that they have no mother, and are essentially orphans, could be an issue for some young kids. Although the language is quite tame, when the dwarfs are bickering amongst themselves, Grumpy says, "Aw, shut up!" When the Magic Mirror reveals that Snow White is still alive (the huntsman has brought back the heart of a pig, not Snow White's), the wicked queen goes into a rage and drinks a potion that gives her the disguise of a haggard peddler, complete with a poison apple for Snow White. The tempting red apple is almost a character unto itself. Then, ranting that Snow White will be "buried alive," the transformed queen passes a skeleton in the basement, kicking its bones, and cackling hysterically before setting out on a foggy night to find Snow White. Despite Doc and the other dwarfs' (even Grumpy's) warnings to beware of strangers, when the Queen -- disguised as an old peddler woman -- approaches the next day, apple in hand, the unassuming Snow White can't resist when told to "make a wish and take a bite." Somehow the forest animals know better. They alert the dwarfs who, in a driving rain, pursue the witch and chase her up a perilous cliff, from which she falls. Then the dwarfs return home to find Snow White asleep and presumably dead from the bite of poison apple. They sob, as do the forest creatures. They build a beautiful coffin of glass and gold in which they can pay homage to her and where she rests until … well, remember that prince earlier? Let's just say there's a kiss and a magical happy ending!

Own It?
This is an animation milestone, featuring the work of some of Disney's best, groundbreaking artists. And Walt was a big fan of this movie. 'Nuff said.

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