MIRROR, MIRROR (2012) – The Review
Last year it seemed that Hollywood was taking a short break from adaptations of toys, video games, comic books, and TV shows when two films were announced that would be live-action versions of classic fairy tales. Well, actually both would be based the same tale ” Snow White and the Seven Dwarves ” by the Brothers Grimm. The entertainment news magazines, blogs, and TV programs were all a flutter. Remember the dueling big asteroid and volcano movies from a decade ago! Would the movie-going public be interested in two versions of that raven-haired heroine? And more importantly, who would make it to the multiplex first? Slowly photos and trailers hit the internet and it became clear that the films were quite different in tone. The darker, action-heavy SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN would fit better, perhaps, amid the big, blockbuster thrill-rides of the Summer. Spring was deemed a better time for a more lighter, irreverent, frothy retelling and so MIRROR, MIRROR is the first to hit the screens. Will this Snowy be the fairest flick of the two?
Most of us are pretty familiar with the basic story thanks to Disney’s ground-breaking first animated feature film. The MIRROR team has re-worked the plot and added bits and pieces from other fables and fairy stories. As it begins, the wicked stepmother queen herself ( Julia Roberts ) brings us up to speed with a prologue acted out by shiny porcelain puppets ( CGI, no doubt ). After the King disappeared into the dark forest many years ago, she’s ruled the kingdom ( plunging it into a constant dreary winter ) and kept lovely Snow White ( Lilly Collins ) locked away in the castle. The queen’s running out of funds and may have to marry the frumpy, older, much richer Baron ( Michael Lerner ). The villagers of the kingdom are almost taxed to starvation (shades of Robin Hood ). But then she meets the handsome Prince Alcott ( Armie Hammer ) after he and his valet are robbed by a pack of seven ( ! ) bandits in the nearby woods. Her plans go askew when he meets… guess who at the big animal-themed costume ball ( a bit of Cinderella there ). Banishment, deception, sorcery, reunions, and new friendships occur as the film hurtles towards several big reveals and the ( hopefully! ) happy ending.
This marks the fourth film of director Tarsem Singh ( he made THE IMMORTALS last year ). He gives us many of the same visual tricks ( slow and fast motion, extreme color palettes, wire-work acrobatics, rapid cutting ), but doesn’t have a light touch that this material demands. There’s no THE PRINCESS BRIDE subtlety on display here. There are opulent palace sets, outrageous over the top gowns ( hey Costume Design Oscar nominators! ), and an overly busy Allan Menkin score to capitalize every wink and grimace. And Singh seems to just be moving the cast like chess pieces ( as the queen does in an early scene ) toward the big action set-ups. Julia Robert’s drag-queen villainy and vanity, perhaps a riff on Tallulah Bankhead ( Google her kids! ), quickly becomes tedious. She’s also the mirror reflection/ witch who stares blankly, wears all white, delivers cryptic warnings, and sends killer marionettes ( huh? ) after the heroes. Collins’s Snow is a fairly vacant princess who looks lovely ( even with Peter Gallagher eyebrows ), but tends to be overshadowed in many scenes. She finally gets a bit more interesting after meeting the dwarves and gets a training montage ( surprised I didn’t hear ” Eye of the Tiger’! ) and a makeover ( ?! ) by the metro sexual member of the gang. Speaking of the seven, they’re played by actual diminutive actors ( as opposed to being “hobbit-ized” ) and are not the jewel-miners from the 37′ classic. After taking off their accordian-legs ( really !) we find that each has a name reflective of a trait or habit ( ” Grub ” loves to eat! ” Chuck” likes to laugh or chuckle! Sooo cuuute! And clever! ). One’s got a little crush on Snow and comes off a tad creepy. Hammer is pretty and prince-ly as Alcott ( should make the ladies’ hearts flutter ), but is too pompous and comes off as a teasing older brother in scenes with ” kid sister ” Snow. There’s very few sparks between the two. The very talented Nathan Lane is wasted as the queen’s put-upon aide who looks fearful as he scurries about ( literally after getting hexed! ) and peppers his royal compliments with a sarcastic snark. I was delighted to see a couple of great screen vets. Lerner get delightfully frustrated in his pursuit of the queen, while former ” brat packer” Mare Winningham as the head of castle cleaning and kitchens tries to nurture Snow while placating the queen. Most of the sets are imaginative except for the overused white-blanketed forest. Even in bare feet nobody seems cold there. The very small kiddies may find this amusing, but the pacing and tiresome attempts at wit should have the elders glancing at the time. For a wise cracking jab at story books I’ll take the first SHREK or PRINCESS BRIDE over this ( and I’ll take Jay Ward’s still fresh and hilarious ” Fractured Fairy Tales” from TV’s “The Bullwinkle Show” over all of them). I hope Charlize, Bella Swan, and Thor have a better flick with their take on this timeless tale in a few months.
Overall Rating : 1.5 Out of 5 Stars