Director: Tarsem Singh Dhanwar
Writers: Marc Klein, Jason Keller (screenplay), The Brothers Grimm (fairytale)
Stars: Julia Roberts, Lilly Collins, Armie Hammer, Nathan Lane
Release date: March 20th, 2012
Distributors: Relativity Media, 20th Century Fox
Running time: 106 minutes
Best part: Lilly Collins.
Worst part: Julia Roberts.
Interpretations of classic fairy tales seem to be part of a new Hollywood trend. Among them comes a surprising number of re-tellings of the Grimm Brother’s story Snow White. With Snow White and the Huntsman out in the coming months, we first arrive at a seemingly lighter retelling with Mirror Mirror. This kid friendly, bombastic affair will remind you of the fun animated Disney adventures significant to our childhoods through the eye popping visual style of special effects master Tarsem Singh Dhanwar (Immortals).
A fresh look at a stale story is what we see here as we are told by the stuck up and disgruntled evil Queen (Julia Roberts) that her version of events is far more enthralling than Snow White(Lily Collins)’s. We are thrown into the story as the Queen’s wicked ways push Snow over the edge, to the point of leaving the confines of the castle in search of adventure. The Queen’s destructive rule over the village forces Snow to stand against her. Banished to the woods, Snow recruits seven wacky yet resourceful dwarves, all the while charmed by the presence of courageous yet modest Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer).
Along With Tim Burton and Michael Bay, Singh has a keen eye for visual imagery but is unable to extend his reach towards convincing storytelling. With all the charm and flair of a musical, Singh’s visual direction in Mirror Mirror attains wondrous new heights. Particularly impressive is the ball sequence in which the castle is flooded with patrons dressed as members of the animal kingdom. His style allows the main characters to stand out in bright colours against plain colour settings, such as Snow’s visit to the decayed village in bright yellow, to illustrate the importance of Snow White’s journey of defiance. The costume design by the late Eiko Ishioka, CGI effects augmenting the wacky slapstick gags and zany fight sequences and the set designs uniquely representing the light of the castle and dark of the woods create an ingenious third dimension for the film without the use of 3D. While a cheerful and catchy song and dance number provides an extra surprise for this already enchanting visual splendour. The use of a brilliant 3D animated exposition sequence, keeping one up to date with the legend, will make you question whether displaying the whole film in this style would lift the film above a dull story told by a somewhat incapable director. This retelling makes a fatal mistake in focusing on the evil Queen. Mirror Mirror is noticeably awkward during scenes involving the Queen in all her pampered glory.
“It’s important to know when you’ve been beaten. Yes?” (The Queen (Julia Roberts), Mirror Mirror).
Despite the clever use of the mirror providing a guardian angel in the Queen’s own form, the castle scenes, involving awkward slapstick comedy and unending scenes of dialogue, only add to the desire to return to the classic story of Snow White and her band of height challenged compatriots. Not to mention, an uncomfortably flat performance from Julia Roberts is a clear sign of her inability to be anything more than her usual charming self in films like Erin Brockovich and Pretty Woman. Nathan Lane does however provide some much needed comic genius as the mistreated yet amusing boot licker Brighton. Thankfully, and ironically, scenes involving the dwarves never fall short. With differing personalities than usually depicted in the Snow White legend, their comedic delivery and natural chemistry create the true heart of the film. The training of Snow White in becoming a bandit is handled with the wit sorely lacking in the majority of the film. Both good looking and charismatic actors, Hammer and Lily create a funny and light hearted relationship though their enjoyable performances. The chemistry between Prince Alcott and Snow White works wonders for several of the otherwise bland dialogue sequences while their sword fight may be one of the most engaging and expertly choreographed in recent memory.
Mirror Mirror, piggy backing off the current fairytale adaptation trend, certainly wears its influences on its well-pressed sleeves. Despite the spirited cast and gorgeous production design, a certain aura of unoriginality fills the air throughout.