If you’re a 9-to 13-year-old girl, this is a fantastic movie. Existing somewhere past the realm of the “little kid” animated fairy tale and the slick, adult love story, “Mirror Mirror” will satisfy its core audience. The rest of us will be left with short moments of humor amid a largely unimaginative adaptation of a classic tale.
One of the most beloved stories of all time is coming to life in the motion picture event for the whole family, Mirror Mirror. A fresh and funny retelling of the Snow White legend, Mirror Mirror features breakout star Lily Collins as Snow White, a princess in exile, and Julia Roberts as the evil Queen who ruthlessly rules her captured kingdom. Seven courageous rebel dwarfs join forces with Snow White as she fights to reclaim her birthright and win her Prince in this magical comedy filled with jealousy, romance, and betrayal that will capture the hearts and imaginations of audiences the world over. The film also stars Armie Hammer as the Prince, and Nathan Lane as the hapless and bungling servant to the Queen. (Synopsis by Relativity)
To be fair, this film never attempts to be anything more than a rendered-down version of the original tale with slight modifications to make it more appealing to the modern tween. Snow White is a damsel in distress under the iron thumb of the queen. Despite opening with a monologue that sets Roberts’ queen up as a misunderstood heroine instead of a villain (a la “Wicked”), the script immediately bounces back into familiar territory. White is the flawless teen of the original tale, escaping the queen’s ensnarement, helping the seven dwarves, and ultimately sealing her fate with a kiss.
While the story may be bland, the costumes, sets and, above all, Roberts’ portrayal of the massively insecure queen manage to salvage the film from complete disaster. Director Tarem Singh again teams up with designer Eiko Ishioka to produce an amazing array of costumes. The visual stylization does more than distract from the vacancies left in the story. Coupled with Robert’s acidic portrayal of the evil queen, the film is almost enjoyable at times. Sarcastic humor and visual pageantry can salvage some of a writer’s missteps.
There have been many takes on the princess fairy tale–“Enchanted,” “Snow White and the Huntsman,” and “Once Upon a Time” all come to mind. So where does “Mirror Mirror” fall? While there are clever takes on certain characters, others leave much to be desired. Prince Alcott is as much a caricature as he is in the original tale. The seven dwarves are given a little more depth, in as much as they aren’t given names relating to their physical characteristics. However, their casting as highwaymen creates a gray area in the morality of their role and in how they are handled.
Insensitively, they walk around on stilts and are derided for their size. They are given an apology late in the film, but leave the impression that being a dwarf is a detriment to society that they should overcome by literally being taller. Even Snow White herself is set up to be a heroine, but when the chips are down, it is the handsome prince that shows up to help her.
Confusing the issue, the action sequences seem out of place with the tone of the film. The dwarves are introduced as some kind of pogo-sticking miniature Jet Li-types. Even the later scene of Prince Alcott and Snow White dueling with swords seem grossly out of place. Perhaps the writers were attempting to bring in a young male audience, but all the accomplished was to distort the film they should have been writing.
Even the attempts at humor are fleeting. The dullness of the story makes the moments of comedy a breath of fresh air, even when they aren’t all that funny. It is hard to criticize the story when it has been done to death, but the film had a real shot at setting up a Wicked storyline. By squandering that opportunity, they left the film to flounder with no clear direction. There is enough of the original story, coupled with dazzling costumes, and mild humor to bring in the tween girl subset. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough left to make a truly enjoyable film for the rest of us.
“See It/ Rent It/ Skip It:” Rent it. It gives girls whose brothers will see “Wrath of the Titans” something to watch this weekend–especially if they already saw “The Hunger Games.”
TWO STARS out of four.
Directed by Tarsem Singh. Written by Melisa Wallack and Jason Keller
Rated PG for some fantasy action and mild rude humor.
Runtime: 1 hr. 35 min.