The promotional material for Mirror Mirror will tell you that the Snow White legend comes alive. Don’t believe everything you read. In Mirror Mirror, the first of two Snow White movies coming out this year, the legend arrives cold and stiff, and if still alive, it is in serious need of a reviving kiss.
The tale of Snow White has had several incarnations, made famous in the Brothers Grimm fairy tale collection and imprinted on American culture with Disney’s animated classic, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. We all know about Prince Charming, the poisonous apple, and the fair-skin, raven-haired maiden who befriends a jolly band of little people in the forest. Breathe easy Snow White enthusiasts…all of these major elements are still present. What is missing is a sense of wonderment, fear, excitement, or any inclination at all that would make us give a damn about this fresh yet utterly stale fairy tale spin.
Mirror Mirror puts the tale of Snow White in a live-action realm, but it doesn’t attempt to add any realism to it. The supposedly much more substantive version, Snow White and the Huntsman, will land this summer and will be a decidedly darker telling. In Mirror Mirror, the wholesome innocence of the Disney movie is preserved, and the filmmaker Tarsem Singh aims to give us a more comedic air.
In the opening scenes we learn that Hollywood’s most loveable actress, Julia Roberts, is playing the Evil Queen, and the irony of that casting alone makes for a laugh. She must have had fun playing the Queen, but she comes across as Julia Roberts playing an evil queen. I would have loved to see her truly wicked side, but she plays the Queen with a wink. Nathan Lane is her right-hand servant, Brighton, and he provides the majority of the film’s funnier moments.
As for the remainder of the cast, Lily Collins looks like Snow White and carries herself regally. The 7 little people in this film aren’t given the greatest material to work with, and none really stand out. Don’t look for their names to be Doc or Dopey either, they all carry names like Butcher, Chuckles or Half Pint (and in a knowing nod, one is named Grimm). My only casting gripe, besides Julia Roberts, is Armie Hammer as the Prince. Really, is this the most charming prince they could come up with?
These characters are immersed in a wondrous fantasy-realm that serves as the real strength of the film. From costumes, to sets, to make-up, Mirror Mirror is a real achievement.
But sadly all of this goes nowhere, and slowly. There were real opportunities for lampooning the original tale or the Disney version that most folks identify with, but Mirror Mirror never pushes the envelope. There is a lot of dopey dialogue and cheap laughs, but this is a film where Prince Charming drinks “puppy love” potion, and spends the second half of the film acting like a dog. I was hoping for a tone that was closer to The Princess Bride or even Enchanted, but instead Singh plays it safe.
The new twists to the original tale are neither clever nor memorable, and the whole thing would have been better suited as a TV movie. Mirror Mirror casts a dull reflection on the legacy of this classic story and will surely be forgotten quicker than you can say “hi ho.”
Hopefully one bad apple doesn’t spoil the bunch. It will only be a few more months until we get another go-around with Snow White, so let’s hope they get it right.