Mirror Mirror: The Untold Adventures of Snow White, 2012.
Directed by Tarsem Singh.
Starring Lily Collins, Julia Roberts and Armie Hammer.
An evil queen has taken control of the Kingdom away from Snow White, its rightful heir. She must enlist the help of seven bandit dwarves and a dashing prince to win it back.
It was a “family screening” on Sunday morning, a week before the film’s release. The PR companies hold these things to spread word of mouth. The place was done to the nines, with free Millies cookies and dwarves dressed up as characters from the film. Bill Oddie was standing by the toilets with a grandchild, but he was a guest, rather than a participant, of the festivities.
Some poor father had a paper crown on his head and a balloon sword in his hand, dreaming of a Super Sunday on Sky Sports at home. He was a few seats along from me, and appeared a little Grumpy at the start. By the end he was grinning broadly. It’s impossible not to, listening to the seven year-old girl between us plead quietly for Snow White not to eat that apple.
For Mirror Mirror will easily be in the upper echelon of family movies this year, enjoyable for both children and adults. It shares a wry smile with The Princess Bride, and the charming self-reflexivity of Enchanted. Most to its credit, it recalls the light-hearted anarchy of everyone’s favourite ignored Disney movie, The Emperor’s New Groove.
As the title suggests, the film is a reinterpretation of the Grimm Brothers’ Snow White. Essentially, the story is the same, but there are a few tweaks. The seven dwarves, for instance, are robbers rather than woodcutters – more high-waymen than high-ho. Their names differ too: Napoleon (Jordan Prentice), Half Pint (Mark Povinelli), Grub (Joe Gnoffo), Wolf (Sebastian Saraceno), Butcher (Martin Klebba), Chuckles (Ronald Lee Clark) and Grimm (who goes onto do ‘guess what’ after the film concludes; Danny Woodburn).
They’re the film’s most endearing part, and their seven-way banter is a serenade of shouts and dovetails. At their quarreling peak around a dinner table, debating over what Snow White’s (Lily Collins) next move should be, they spin at least three separate arguments simultaneously.
Snow has been banished from her castle and kingdom, where everyone assumes her dead. After catching the eye of Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) at a glamorous ball, the Queen (Julia Roberts) commanded she be taken into The Forest and killed. Alcott is the Queen’s preferred suitor – not just because of his land and wealth, of which her stricken kingdom are in dire need, but also his broad chest and handsome face.
Armie Hammer is an exemplary piece of casting. His jawline is like the White Cliffs of Dover: chiseled, strong, regal. His voice, too – it sounds completely at home in a fantasy yarn, his deep, noble inflections commanding the olde speak. It’s easy to see why the Queen prefers him over the out-of-shape Baron (Michael Lerner). If only Alcott felt the same way in return, but he only has eyes for Snow.
Eleven characters have been mentioned thus far, all of them extremely well-written with their own quirks and style. You’d think the dwarves would get lost amongst their number, yet they remain possibly the strongest and easiest to root for. They weren’t always thieves, you know. Before Snow’s King father was lost to the Forest, they were townsmen. Half-Pint used to own the pub; Grimm was a teacher. But when the Queen took power, she banished all ‘undesirables’ to the woods. Her vanity is not just for herself, but against those she deems ugly also.
Plot elements and jokes recur and are made reference to later on the film. A great deal of care and thought have gone into both the script and characters by Melissa Wellack, her debut, and Jason Keller, who’s only previous credit is Mirror Mirror’s antithesis – Machine Gun Preacher.
The action and jokes come thick and fast, with enough plot to keep them both relevant and interesting. But therein lies the film’s only snag, and what keeps it from being confidently uttered in the same breath as The Princess Bride and Emperor’s New Groove. Some scenes and plot points feel rushed. Once again, the entire development of a relationship – this time between the seven dwarves and Snow – is fudged into a montage rather than trusting it to play out organically. The desperate village that the castle overlooks is barely visited, and hardly involved in the film’s climactic battle against the Queen, yet a great deal of the drama is centered on their plight. An opportunity missed, and it’s what makes the end confrontation feel like a prelude to some greater one.
But these are nit pickings. Mirror Mirror is a truly fun movie. It makes sense. Set pieces and jokes are imaginative and work within the story’s context. It has a sinister undertone with the Queen’s dark magic. It makes you laugh and, more importantly, it has a sincere, sympathetic heart.
And it also has the most bizarre end credits sequence – a Bollywood-inspired dance sequence with the film’s major characters. The director’s name, Tarsem Singh, suggests a reason as to why, yet he’s never worked in Bollywood. His break came directing the music video for REM’s ‘Losing My Religion’. The sequence catches you so off-guard, from such an already enjoyable movie, that your smile only broadens.
It’s a great family movie. You’ll forget Super Sunday is even on.
Flickering Myth Rating: Film ** / Movie ****