An evil queen steals control of a kingdom and an exiled princess enlists the help of seven resourceful rebels to win back her birthright.
Obviously the Zeitgeist has spoken and decided classic fairytales are in dire need of a reboot. MIRROR MIRROR is just one of two recent reworkings of the Grimm brothers’ tale of Snow White. The other is the yet-to-be-released K-Stew flick, SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN.
MIRROR MIRROR is a PG comedy adventure directed by Tarsem Singh (THE CELL, THE FALL, THE IMMORTALS). As usual, it has Singh’s lavishly detailed visuals; the sets and costumes are stunning; the CG animated opening is the loveliest sequence in the movie. Porcelain doll figures recount the back-story of the Evil Queen’s rise, the King’s demise and Snow White’s isolation. These first five minutes capture the essence of fairytales. The images are enchanting and our imagination is allowed to fill in the blanks.
Unfortunately, nothing that follows has quite the magic of these first moments. The film proper begins with a haughty Queen (Roberts) suffering the attentions of a suitor who is too old for her. She takes time out from this duty to further crush the spirit of her step-daughter the Princess Snow White (Collins). The Queen has Snow White completely under her thumb.
The Princess has turned 18 and has no knowledge of her kingdom because she hasn’t left the castle for ten years – not since her father disappeared. When she travels to the village she discovers her land is locked in perpetual winter and the people are taxed into poverty by the Queen. A traveler, the handsome Prince Alcott (Hammer), arrives in the kingdom. We know that fate must bring him and Snow together, but first there are fearsome creatures to be dealt with, not to mention seven disenfranchised dwarves. Meanwhile The Queen works to enchant Prince Alcott and destroy Snow White.
Tarsem and his writers work hard to put a new spin on this well-worn material and they mostly succeed. Snow White isn’t cut from precisely the same cloth as the original Disney princess we know and love. She does meet the dwarves and this is a turning point for her. In addition to her prodigious domestic skills, she learns to assert herself and even picks up a few combat moves. This leads to a minor Taming of the Shrew riff between her and Prince Alcott that is well-handled and funny.
The dwarves are rather feistier than the ones we know from the Mouse House; fans of Terry Gilliam’s THE TIME BANDITS (1981) are likely to be reminded of the band of rebellious dwarves in that movie. MIRROR MIRROR’s seven are amusing for their verbal comedy and they also give the story an emotional kick.
Most of the actors are well-cast. Armie Hammer makes a fine and comedic jock-prince. Lily Collins is very good as Snow White. (Although the Audrey Hepburn comparisons are just silly. It makes about as much sense as saying her eyebrows are reminiscent of the young Jennifer Connelly’s. Who cares?) I was a perplexed by Nathan Lane’s performance. He is one of my favourite actors, but seems to lack his characteristic energy in this film. However, it is the casting of Julia Roberts as the Queen that is the most problematical. She is supposed to be the icy, evil centre of the story, but she doesn’t bring it off. She turns down the warmth, which is one of her strengths as an actor, but doesn’t bring forth anything else.
I felt the battle between her and Snow was essentially lop-sided. Snow has it won before it starts. The role of the Queen requires something like the menace and the comedy Michelle Pfeiffer brought to part of Lamia in STARDUST (2007). Even given that this is for a PG audience that will have some young children in it, the Queen wasn’t the slightest bit evil or scary, she was basically “not nice”.
MIRROR MIRROR is a pleasant diversion that will lightly entertain any adults in the room. The multitude of kids at the screening I was at, seemed to enjoy the film. It moves at a good pace and there’s always something dazzling to see just around the corner.
MIRROR MIRROR is screening now in Australia. It runs for 106 minutes. I rated it 2.5/5.