Midweek Movie Review: Mirror Mirror
I’ll say one thing about Mirror Mirror. If you have a daughter under 10, chances are she’ll absolutely love this colourful fantasy comedy – the first of two Snow White fairy tale adaptations coming out in 2012 (the second being Snow White and the Huntsman next month). For everyone else in the audience though there’s little to recommend about Mirror Mirror, which comes across like someone has simply set up cameras at a playhouse to film a big budget pantomime.
From Immortals and The Cell director Tarsem Singh – who is known for his use of surreal imagery – Mirror Mirror is consciously artificial in all departments. This is most obvious in terms of the sets, which have an airless indoors quality to them, even during the outdoors scenes, while the landscape shots are all clearly CGI creations.
In terms of the plot, the well-known fairy tale has supposedly been sassed up with contemporary dialogue and accents, but has otherwise only undergone a few notable storyline tweaks. For example, the vain, Dark Magic-dabbling queen (Julia Roberts) has an extra reason to dispatch sweet Snow White (Lily Collins): rich Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) is obviously captivated by the princess, and the queen – who has bankrupted the kingdom to fund her extravagant lifestyle – needs his hand in marriage. The seven dwarves meanwhile have been overhauled as bandits. They inject a little “girl power’ into proceedings when they train up Snow White to be a fellow thief and competent swordswoman.
To be fair, you can’t call Mirror Mirror a train wreck. The film’s costumes make for spectacular eye candy, as the movie adopts the Hunger Games approach of depicting the privileged minority as decadent fools who dress as extravagantly and impractically as possible.
There are also a handful of noteworthy moments. In this sea of superficiality, the dwarves are distinctive, highly likeable, and credibly lose their hearts to Snow White. Meanwhile, the dreaded Beast that lurks in the forest is a well designed addition to proceedings, bringing some unexpected South East Asian flavour to the film, along with Singh’s reworking of the Magic Mirror concept. There’s also a nifty marionette attack sequence as the queen unleashes the full extent of her magic on Snow White. This said, the battle is better in concept than execution due to some very unpolished special effects.
Mirror Mirror’s biggest problem of all though is that it feels like it’s straining too hard to be funny and charming. The cast is admirably committed to the goofiness but even they can’t overcome the limpness of their lines. And then there’s the absolutely cringe-worthy Bollywood musical number that caps proceedings.
In all honesty, the film is more convincing, and affecting, during its split-second darker moments. In fact, the all-important “old crone and the apple” scene in Mirror Mirror reveals something more interesting about Snow White, for a heartbeat delving beneath her bland prettiness and “niceness” to strike some surprising iron beneath. The movie could have done with more of this thought-provoking contrast.
Anyway, as it stands, Mirror Mirror is colourful and pretty, but little else. It’s safe and pleasant, making it a solid live-action option for a family outing to the cinema. But as a big screen fairy tale adaptation it’s seriously lacking in memorable magic.
2 stars out of 5.
This review originally appeared online at The Movies.