Love is the answer, even when Romeo is a snake-catcher. Luckily, he’s not great at his job.
“The Legend of the White Snake” is a famous Chinese folk tale that originated in the Ming dynasty. Its newest adaptation, the animation feature “White Snake,” which features a Disney-esque damsel-in-distress treatment, is a prequel, set 500 years before the main story.
The heroine, Blanca, a snake spirit who can appear in female form, loses her memory of her serpentine past when she is injured while attempting to assassinate an evil general who is harvesting snakes to gain immortality.
She is rescued by Xuan (Yang Tianxiang), a friendly snake-catcher, of all things, with a pet dog; they help Blanca piece together her identity, which reveals itself in grand reptile form.
Demons and humans cannot be together romantically, and Xuan has a fear of snakes that has prevented him from doing his job. Still, the two, predictably, fall in love, with Xuan proving he is brave enough to break the taboo.
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The forbidden romance has its will-they-or-won’t-they thrills, but this first feature by the directors Amp Wong and Ji Zhao, becomes a basket of tangled snakes when Blanca faces far too many obstacles, including — deep breath — her sister, the evil general, the queenly Snake Master and a pipe-smoking fox demon.
It may be too complicated and risqué for younger viewers, despite its fairy-tale love and canine sidekick who can talk. (This comic relief isn’t very funny.)
And purely on the level of spectacle, the film’s landscape shots look breathtakingly real, but animated figures, especially during fight scenes, are tripped up by a dimension-flattening veneer that makes “White Snake” look more like an iPhone game.
Not rated. In Mandarin with subtitles; also available dubbed in English. Running time: 1 hour 39 minutes.