Stunning manifestation of the Snow White legend looks a fairy tale come to life. Exquisite production design and beautiful costumes come together in this bold, colorful re-imagining of the classic Brothers Grimm story. Everything looks striking. For example, check out those accordion-style stilt trousers on the dwarfs. And speaking of dwarfs, they’re pretty engaging. Likable, funny and distinctive, these little guys provide several memorable moments in the film. Their fight with giant marionettes is a marvel. Also a humorous delight is the wicked queen’s beauty regimen complete with literally created bee-stung lips. That make-over segment is the single most imaginative sequence in the whole film, and believe me, there are several.
Unfortunately the script is where this re-telling really falters. Screenwriters Marc Klein and Jason Keller, from a story by Melisa Wallack, have mishandled the timeless fable in a way that removes charm and tradition. In it’s place we get a wicked queen who shares the spotlight as much, if not more than, the young heroine. Julia Roberts has been selected as a sarcastic portrayal of the queen that’s more insecure than evil. Her narcissistic performance isn’t as horrible as the idea might suggest, but the actress never disappears into the role either. I felt like I was watching Julia Roberts play a campy version of herself. She elicits an equal amount of chuckles as well as groans. The rest of the cast doesn’t help. Lily Collins is forgettable as Snow White, capturing neither the sweetness nor appeal of her character’s personality. Armie Hammer looks like a prince, he’s handsome, but possesses no other discernable qualities as to why Snow White would be taken with him. You see Snow White doesn’t need a prince to save her. She essentially saves herself and him in this variant. Ok he helps, but remember the poison apple? That barely makes an appearance. It’s more of a footnote here. An innovative re-envisioning could have been what this centuries old tale needed. However we’re given a lightly dusted politically correct rendering that’s just as timeworn as what it replaces.
Mirror Mirror ends up being a mixed bag. Director Tarsem Singh doesn’t disappoint visually. One scene after another is a sensation of color and costumes. Impressive achievement subtly recalls Tim Burton via Alice in Wonderland. Like that adaptation, this screws with the original in a way that’s detrimental. The narrative fails to enchant with its political correctness. Nevertheless, if vivid production design and some genuine laughs are what you desire, you‘ll find that here. This isn’t an entirely slick revisionist take. The script still has heart and means to entertain children with its creativity. For the most part, it wants to present the legend with sincerity for that audience. Amidst the modern touches still remains the earnest tale of a girl who falls in love with her prince.