Mirror Mirror

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.

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13 Responses to “Mirror Mirror”

  1. It sounds like the movie itself is a lot better than the TV spots make it look. May end up seeing this once it hits DVD. Nice review!

  2. Great review, Mark. You know, I was actually expecting this to be much worse. I understand where they got it wrong, but I can see they also did many things right.

    • Even though I went to see this, I had very low expectations. I was surprised when I found myself enjoying it in parts, even laughing, not at the movie, but with it.

  3. I’m not surprised. This movie appeals to me but everytime I see and hear Julia Roberts in that awful accent that sounds completely amateurish I just wanna scream. You nailed it with campy. Sounds like a rental when I have time. Great review as always.

  4. Now, Enchanted with Amy Adams? that was enchanting and the way a princess movie SHOULD be done. 🙂

    • These modern takes on fairy tales can be very good. I liked Enchanted very much Amy Adams was so engaging in that Ditto Anne Hathaway in Ella Enchanted or Drew Barrymore in Ever After. Lily Collins? Meh. Not so much.

  5. While i agree with you on some points (the majority of the casting is bland and forgettable – with the exception of Nathan Lane), i have to say not only did i just enjoy this movie way more than i intended to, but that given Tarsem Singh’s previous movies, in particular the absolutely dreadful snooze-fest that was Immortals, i found this to be his first truly decent movie that at least attempted to focus on a story as much as it’s visuals.
    julia Roberts to me is one of, if not THE most mis-cast actress in cinema, though in this i found i cold accept her in the role. The changes that they made, while odd (turning it not into a story of jealousy over age and instead into a love triangle, and doing away with the huntsman and instead replacing him with a beast of the forrest), while not entirely successful was a nice fresh change to another boring re-take on a well known story.
    There’s a sort nof unwritten rule that many reviewers go by that for a comedy to be successful, it should illicit at least 6 good laughs from the audience, and for me, this did (admittedly most from the terrificly comedic Nathan Lane – if only he and the dwarfs had shared more scenes). Not the best fairytale re-take, but an all round enjoyable one.

    • I’ll admit Tarsem and his storytelling skills are not his strongest suit, but I have found all of his films to encompass a decent enough story to keep me entertained. I think what does him in is his production work is so strong (I’d put his visuals in a class with Satyricon or Black Narcissus) that the story pales in comparison. The Cell was a more superficial version of Altered States for example (if that’s possible).

      I cannot see Julia Roberts in a film anymore without seeing a highly paid actress. It wasn’t always this way but somewhere around 2001 when she did The Mexican she lost the ability to disappear into a role. That’s not to say she hasn’t been in some good films since then, but I think her presence is more of a distraction than a benefit for me now.

      I acknowledge that Nathan Lane and the dwarfs were the best actors in the film. We agree a lot on this one.

      • That may be the reason why i think she’s mis-cast in most of her roles, she sticks out too much and doesn’t blend in with the movie, not necessarily because of being a highly paid actress, but there’s definately something there. Look at someone like Sigourney Weaver (who appears in The Cold Light Of Day which i’ll be seeing this friday), someone who has been around the same amount of time, with a similarly successful career, and who dissapears in almost each of her roles.

  6. I enjoyed this a lot more than I expected to. The look of the film was amazing, but the story, just okay. The 7 dwarfs were my favorite characters.

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