Directed by: Tarsem Singh.
Written by: Jason Keller and Marc Klein and Melisa Wallack based on the Grimm Brothers Story.
Starring: Julia Roberts (The Queen), Lily Collins (Snow White), Armie Hammer (Prince Alcott), Nathan Lane (Brighton), Jordan Prentice (Napoleon), Mark Povinelli (Half Pint), Joe Gnoffo (Grub), Danny Woodburn (Grimm), Sebastian Saraceno (Wolf), Martin Klebba (Butcher), Ronald Lee Clark (Chuckles), Robert Emms (Charles Renbock), Mare Winningham (Baker Margaret), Michael Lerner (Baron), Sean Bean (King).
Mirror, Mirror so wants to be a clever spin on Snow White – bringing a modern sensibility to the classic fairy tale, while still setting it in the past. In a way, the movie reminded me of the Shrek movies, which both wants to be a fairy tale, and a sendup of fairy tales. That is a difficult line to walk, and Mirror, Mirror does a decent enough job of walking that line, but quite simply not good enough. The actors are certainly game – and seem to be having a blast – but that doesn’t mean they can cover over the fact that Mirror, Mirror is all surface, and no substance.
The film was directed by Tarsem Singh, who has made four films; all of which look great, but only one is a really good movie. That was his first – the underrated The Cell (2000), a mind bending science fiction, serial killer drama, that was masterfully handled by Tarsem. Many loved his 2006 follow-up The Fall, which looked as great as The Cell, but had a storyline that never gelled for me. His last film was last falls The Immortals, which was obviously inspired by 300, but looked a hell of a lot better, even if the story never really went anywhere. There is never a doubt that Mirror, Mirror is one of his films – it opens with a wonderful, animated puppet sequence where the evil Queen gives us the famous backstory we all know for Snow White. It then dives headlong into its story – which certainly deviates from the fairy tale we all know. The Seven Dwarfs are no longer merry miners, but jolly thieves. The Prince shows up at the beginning of the movie, is immediately robbed by the dwarves, and has to be saved by Snow White – before heading off the palace, where the Queen sets her sets on him as a future husband, to help her finance her own vanity, which has bankrupted the kingdom. Of course, Snow White is still chased out into the woods, and still teams up with the Dwarves, but she is not as passive as before – not just waiting for the Prince to eventually save her.
The actors are all up for their roles, and in a vacuum, they all perform them well. Julia Roberts is obviously having a blast being the wicked Queen – she’s not as annoying cutesy as I often find her, as the bad guy role fits her surprisingly well. Lily Collins certainly looks like a teenage Snow White – dark hair, pale skin, and I liked how she refuses to be a passenger in the story. Armie Hamer looks the part of a handsome prince, and he goes for it, not afraid to look goofy at times. The problem with all of these performances is that they don’t really seem to be interacting with each other – the hate between the Queen and Snow White, and the love between Snow White and the Prince is never really felt – just stated. The actors are all having fun, but they lack the passion that should drive the film. The best lines in the movie go to the Dwarves – who at least seem like a real team.
Yet, the movie is always a treat to look at – as Tarsem’s films always are. The art direction and especially the costume design (which if you didn’t know this was a Tarsem film, would certainly give it away – especially the Royal Guards uniforms) are top notch. But there is only so much time you can admire the sets and the costumes, and enjoy actors who are obviously having a good time, but don’t seem to fit together, before the movie becomes rather dull. Tarsem is a gifted director – but it’s now been 12 years since he found a story that can match his visuals.