Mirror Mirror (2012)

Mirror Mirror (2012) – So 2012 is the year of the competing Snow White projects. This was the first of the two but I never got around to seeing it in theaters so it’s getting reviewed second. It doesn’t have a very high bar to clear to be the better of the two. I found Snow White and the Huntsman to be annoyingly self-serious and rather tediously plotted. Despite valiant efforts from its three leads, the main thing it had going for it was some rather impressive visuals. However “impressive visuals” is practically the middle name of director Tarsem Singh. His first feature, The Cell, featured Jennifer Lopez venturing literally into the subconscious of a serial killer. While it had a lackluster plot it had an amazing look, fueled largely by the costume design of Eiko Ishioka who designed the costumes for all for tarsem’s films. (Unfortunately due to her passing, Mirror Mirror is their last collaboration and the film is dedicated to her.) He followed The Cell many years later with The Fall, a movie that actually had a story to match the astonishing visual component. Last year, he gave us Immortals which was a somewhat generic Greek mythology action flick but, once more, with an amazing aesthetic. So I was rather looking forward to his version of a classic fairy tale… then the first trailer hit and the film’s tone was revealed to be somewhat broadly comic. I wasn’t really sure what to make of that…

Julia Roberts takes a very over-the-top campy turn as the Evil Queen (never named). Many years before, she married the King (Sean Bean) and took over the kingdom when he went on a quest never to return. She has kept the King’s daughter Snow White (Lily Collins) locked away in the castle while she bankrupted the kingdom. An older baron (Michael Lerner) constantly proposes marriage to strengthen the finances of the kingdom but the Queen decides she would rather have the handsome young Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer)… except he (of course) falls for Snow White. The Queen dispatches her henchman (Nathan Lane) to kill Snow White. He, instead, has mercy and turns her loose in the Dark Woods. There she meets seven dwarves (Martin Klebba, Danny Woodburn, Mark Povinelli, Jordan Prentice, Joe Gnoffo, Sebastian Saraceno, and Ronald Lee Clark [actual little people, unlike the CGI-ed dwarves of Snow White and the Huntsman]) who make a living as bandits. Soon she teaches them how to use their skills for good (and to fight the Queen) and they teach her to be more than a sheltered princess.

As indicated before, the tone of this film is broadly comic. That seemed to me from the trailer to be a bad thing, but after watching both films I prefer it to the needlessly somber Snow White and the Huntsman. That’s not to say Mirror Mirror is a great film by any stretch of the imagination. It’s a somewhat flawed piece of entertaining lightweight fluff. It reminds me of a lesser Disney animated film, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact that seems more the tone a fairy tale adaptation SHOULD take instead of trying to turn Snow White into Lord of the Rings. At this point it should go without saying for a Tarsem Singh film, but Mirror Mirror is absolutely beautiful to look at. It’s a fitting swan song for the late Eiko Ishioka. The acting is all pretty over-the-top. Roberts… well… she did all right. I really liked Lily Collins (though I found her eyebrows distracting… I’m not normally that shallow but part of the character description is “fairest of them all”). The dwarves are not super-developed as characters or anything, but they all have their defining quirks so they’re not just a monolithic group of indistinguishable little people. Armie hammer I found rather funny and I hope he does more comedy in the future (The Social Network and J. Edgar already prove he’s got drama down). Mirror Mirror is marginally the better of the two Snow White films released this year and all-in-all a lightweight and enjoyable flick. There are probably better movies you can check out (again in the fairy tale department I’d like to recommend Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast), but I can’t see anyone regretting watching this flick. It’s just kind of fun.

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