Julia Roberts and Lily Collins in Mirror Mirror.
Mirror Mirror is a movie that based on critical and audience reaction is going to have a hard time finding an audience. It's a light hearted and comical take on the Snow White fairytale. Visually it's quite beautiful and stylish. The comedy is campy and silly and very over-the-top. Those in the audience with me who seemed to be enjoying it the most were those under 10. I enjoyed parts of it, but at times it does seem as if its makers couldn't decide what kind of movie they were trying to make.
The story is familiar enough to us all, although there are some variations on the original tale. Snow White (played by Lily Collins, daughter of Pop Star Phil Collins) is a princess whose mother died giving birth to her. Her father raised her and doted on her until one day he remarried and Snow White gained a wicked stepmother. When the king disappeared, the evil queen took over the kingdom and ruled it with an icy grip.
It is when Snow turns 18 that the movie really starts and the Queen decides that it's time to get rid of the princess who will soon be a challenge to her power. She sends her into the woods with Brighton, the Queens bumbling servant played by Nathan Lane. He, of course, doesn't kill her, and Snow ends up living with seven dwarves in the woods, who in this film are acrobatic highwaymen who commit their crimes while on stilts.
Meanwhile, the Queen is trying to get the prince to fall in love with her because she needs his money, but he's already fallen in love with Snow White, whom he met in the forest. Will the Queen triumph or will true love rule the day? C'mon this is a fairy tale and we all know how those end.
The production and art direction are all top quality. The director is Tarsem Singh, who is known for creating beautiful imagery. His previous credits include The Immortals and The Cell. Certainly no expense was spared on the costumes, which are lavish, particularly the Queen's dresses. The castle is also quite lush and the scenes in the forest are interestingly shot, especially the dwarves on stilts. At the very least there's always plenty to look at on the screen.
As often seems to be the case with highly visual directors, it is the writing where the movie is weakest. It seems to have difficulty finding its stride. It works best as a tongue in cheek comedy. Nathan Lane and Julia Roberts certainly seem in on the joke. I found it to get funnier as it went along as it seemed to find its stride.
Roberts is in full-on chewing up the scenery mode and while I've never been a big fan of her's, I have to say that she does a pretty good job. Or maybe I just enjoyed seeing her play a villain. Collins looks the part of Snow White and is young enough that her career will recover from any hit she'll take if this movie flops. Personally I rather wish that she had been cast in the other, darker Snow White film being released this year instead of Kristen Stewart.
If you know what to expect going in, this isn't such a bad movie. It's a fractured fairy tale with a broad sense of humor that children can enjoy, but there are also enough jokes for the adults in the audience and there's always plenty to look at.
The seven dwarves and the Prince in Mirror Mirror
Mirror Mirror is a bit of a parody on the story of Snow White. As Scott wrote, it takes liberty with the plot but I think it plays it all too safe. The evil Queen has some nice little lines of commanding everyone around and insulting Snow White. It is not enough though.
Scott complimented Julia Roberts performance and stated she chewed up the scenery. I think she did not play it up big enough. In the superior Snow White spin, Seven Dwarfs from Germany (2004), the evil Queen is played by Nina Hagen and she rightly plays to the last row. Roberts is playing a classic fable villain but too often just reads her lines. Look at when Brighton comes back from the woods and the Queen merely asks if Snow is dead. She should have hammed that scene up.
In a show of the times, Snow White is no damsel in distress. She learns to use a sword and wear a sexy fighting outfit. When the beast shows up she decides to fight it without the help of the Prince. That could have worked if it were milked for all it was worth, but the Prince does in fact help her out. Lily Collins is decent in the role but it did take me a moment to get used to her unplucked eyebrows.
Armie Hammer likewise holds back. His big moments are when he arrives shirtless at the castle (twice) and the Queen gawks at him. His other big attempt at a laugh is when he thinks he is a puppy. "You can throw a stick and I will fetch it." He offers the Queen, who used a puppy love potion on him. He should have played the Prince dopier, whether under a spell or not.
Mirror Mirror seems to hold back. It wants to be a wacky parody, but it never goes far enough with the jokes or performances. The Queen should have been an outright psycho instead of just a bitch. Snow White should have been an all out bad ass warrior instead of just a girl who learns to fight. The Prince should have been a weak little pretty boy himbo, instead of just a slightly dumb prince who always gets bested by dwarves. As it is, Mirror Mirror plays it too safe and will likely be forgotten none to soon.
Julia Roberts in the visually stunning Mirror Mirror.
The look of the movie is indeed gorgeous. Tarsem Singh more than lives up to his reputation for creating fabulous visuals for the screen. The costumes by the late Eiko Ishioka are likewise breathtaking. They would have made Adrian, Orry-Kelly and Travis Banton proud. Some of the elaborate gowns worn by Julia Roberts were so heavy that she actually pulled a muscle while filming a scene where she turned to say a line to Nathan Lane too quickly. Talk about suffering for your art.
I agree with Eric that the tone of the movie is uneven. Is it a cute little fairytale for children or a full-blown comic parody? I don't think the screenwriters could decide. It attempts to be both and fails to succeed completely at either one. The story is so well known and iconic that adding a few new plot twists does nothing for it.
There is some decent dialogue along the way. The Evil Queen says about her young rival, “Snow would have to do what snow does best. Snow would have to fall.” And they cleverly utilize Julia Roberts' real life younger sister Lisa to play the famous magic mirror. She is described as, “the reflection of Queen Clementiaanna who is much wiser, kinder, and somewhat younger than her.”
I agree with Scott that Roberts and Lane seem in on the inherent camp aspect of the story. But, like Eric, I think they both somewhat underplay their parts. My favorite exchange between them is when they believe Snow White to be dead and Brighton is delivering her eulogy...
Brighton: “Snow White is dead. One of God's great mysteries is his plan for each and every one of us...” The Queen: “Speed it up.” Brighton (speaking quickly): “Snow White lived, she died, God rest her soul, Amen. There will be a buffet lunch served at two.” The script needed more moments like this.
And I think Roberts should have painted her face with more glamorous makeup to fit the aging Queen's vanity. The rather subdued makeup she wears in some scenes doesn't fit the character. The Queen's beauty regimen is quite funny though, especially when you consider that the majority of the treatments she undergoes are actually offered in real life spas around the globe.
The much feared Beast turns out to be way too cutesy. It seems the filmmakers finally decided which way to go. By the end of the movie it becomes clear that its primary target is young children. As such it's not a horrible movie by any means, but I would have preferred a more adult oriented spoof of the classic fairy tale.
Photos © Copyright Relativity Media (2012)