Directed by Tarsem Singh.
Starring Lily Collins, Julia Roberts, Armie Hammer, Nathan Lane, Mare Winningham, Michael Lerner and Sean Bean.
A princess enlists the aid of seven dwarves to win back her birthright from an evil queen who has seized control of the kingdom.
Looking back, if you had asked me to pick which of the two Snow White adaptations that came out this year would be good, based only on their trailers, I would have picked Snow White and the Huntsman, the dark and gritty reboot with a visual aesthetic reminiscent of The Lord of the Rings, over Mirror Mirror, which looked like a campy, slapstick and, above all, childish retelling from mixed-bag director Tarsem Singh.
However, accusing a children’s film of being childish is quite unfair, and Mirror Mirror is a children’s film, but a really well made one. With its simple narrative and broad comedy, it might be Singh’s most accessible (and entertaining) film.
On her 16th birthday, a young beautiful princess, Snow White (Lily Collins; Abduction), discovers, to her shock, that her evil stepmother, The Queen (Julia Roberts; Eat Pray Love), is evil! Oh, and that she has been overtaxing the populace to pay for her lavish parties and beauty treatments, while using magic, propaganda and a terrifying beast to maintain control. She joins a band of dwarfs (who are bandits rather than miners; hey, it’s a bad economy) to commit Robin Hood style robberies, and recruits the charming Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer; The Social Network) to take down the Queen. Will Snow be able to believe in herself enough to succeed and live happily ever after?
Mirror Mirror works for several reasons. The story is simple and straight-forward, but told with style and wit. The jokes are funny (although occasionally a tad disturbing) and the actors (especially the seven dwarfs) give great performances, and it will definitely entertain the kids. There are some great set pieces, from scenes featuring the dwarfs, who wear giant stilts to commit their acts of banditry, to a ballroom scene featuring elaborate and brilliant costumes designed by Eiko Ishioka. In fact, this was the last film Ishioka worked on before her death. She had collaborated with Singh on several of his previous films, significantly contributing to the brilliant visual aesthetic his films are known for. It’s even scary on occasion: one scene features two giant wooden puppets sent by the Queen, and their unnatural movements and huge size is surprisingly unsettling. If not for the goofy laughter effect added to the puppets, I think a lot of children would have been traumatised by these things.
Singh is a great director. He has an identifiable signature style, a fantastic understanding of visual storytelling and an endearing focus on aesthetic perfection. His films look amazing. He just hasn’t made a truly great film yet. The Cell was a mess of empty symbolism and Immortals was mostly style (a brilliant style) over substance. He came very close with The Fall, a film about stories and their effect on the audience and the teller, but perhaps hasn’t penetrated pop culture in the way a truly great film could. Mirror Mirror doesn’t attempt to deconstruct the nature of stories and myth or try anything as experimental as his previous films, but I think that in order to create an appealing movie for children, Singh was forced to reign in his wilder tendencies and create a more focused film experience. But don’t worry Singh fans, it still contains moments of demented brilliance, such as the film ending with a Bollywood-esque song and dance.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★