© 2012 Ray Wong
Hollywood seems to often finds an idea and then latches onto it. Recently there are two movies coming out, retelling Brothers Grimm's Snow White -- one of which is Mirror Mirror starring Julia Roberts.
We all know the story: The lonely, widowed King (Sean Bean) raises his beautiful daughter Snow White (Lily Collins), but something is still missing in his life, so he marries a beautiful, enchanting woman as his Queen (Julia Roberts). Little does he know that the Evil Queen is actually a sorceress. She uses her black magic to get rid of the King and claim the kingdom as her own.
Then Snow White grows up and becomes more beautiful than the Evil Queen herself. Jealous and insecure, the Queen keeps Snow White locked up in the castle under the watch of her loyal servant Brighton (Nathan Lane). Snow White, however, defies her. When she arrives at the destitute village, she realizes what a horrible thing the Queen has done to the people.
Meanwhile, the Evil Queen is determined to marry rich and handsome Prince Alcott (Arnie Hammer). But the Prince has his eyes set on Snow White, who asks him to help her people. Threatened by Snow White, the Queen orders Brighton to have Snow White killed. Brighton, however, tells Snow White to run for her life in the dark forest, where she meets seven dwarfs…
Once the most bankable actress, Julia Roberts' (Larry Crowne) star has dimmed considerably in recent years, and she's in desperate need for a financial and critically successful film. Unfortunately, this isn't it. Roberts, however, seems to relish playing evil. Her take on the Evil Queen is a mix of self-absorbed wit and bitchiness -- not really "evil." It's good that she has a good time, but it's far from being her strongest performance.
Fresh-faced Lily Collins (Abduction) plays it safe as Snow White. She is sweet, lovely, beautiful and kind, exactly what the character is called for. At the same time, that makes her character bland. Sure, this Snow White can be spunky and independent, too, but mostly she is still that archetypical heroine we've grown to expect. Arnie Hammer (J. Edgar) has more to do with his role as the dashing but somewhat bumbling Prince. Hammer gets to show his comedic skills, getting goofy while looking great at the same time.
The rest of the cast is okay, as far as a comedy/children's movie is concerned. Nathan Lane (Swing Vote) hams it up as Brighton, the King's once-loyal servant who now serves as the Queen's righthand man. Mare Winningham (Brothers) is genuine as the baker, and Michael Lerner (A Serious Man) is fine as the Baron. Sean Bean (Soldiers of Fortune) is particularly regal as the King. The actors who play the seven dwarfs are all very good: Jordan Prentice, Mark Povinelli, Joe Groffo, Danny Woodbum, Sebastian Saraceno, Martin Klebba, and Ronald Lee Clark.
Writers Melissa Wallack (Meet Bill) and Jason Keller (Machine Gun Preacher) have taken rather broad dramatic license with Grimms' original. Sure, they've kept the basic story and structure and characters, but they also try to modernize it and add humor. The result, however, feels forced. The character upgrades are standard: the dashing Prince who is also a buffoon, and the kind princess who is spunky and resourceful… I give them kudos for trying to make the good old tale fresh, but they are just not doing enough (in comparison, the other Snow White movie sounds rather radical in comparison).
The plot is busy, and the scenes are, too. There is just too much going on at once and the dialogue and situations aren't necessary funny or endearing. I understand their target audience are kids, but I wonder if the kids actually enjoy this. Granted, the seven dwarfs are rather fun and I love the multiracial casting (but why stop there? Why not having a Latino butler or Asian gentry?) They are probably the best part of the movie, even though the Prince and Princess are quite adorable together.
Director Tarsem Singh (Immortals) has established himself as someone with a great eye and fantastic visual styles, and Mirror Mirror is no exception. The production value is amazing. The sets are beautiful, the costumes are outrageously sublime, and art direction is gorgeous. The fairytale look and feel is top-notch. That said, his direction can't save the movie from being too busy, too infantile, and being too much. It reminds me of another fairytale story: The Brothers Grimm with Matt Damon and Heath Ledger, and that one was a total disaster. This, however, isn't quite as bad. It has great production value and is, at certain times, entertaining. Still, over all, it's an over-bloated, forced piece of comedy that perhaps only the younger children would fully enjoy. And I think… Mirror Mirror on the wall, that's the fairest review of all.
Stars: Julia Roberts, Lily Collins, Arnie Hammer, Nathan Lane, Jordan Prentice, Mare Winningham, Michael Lerner, Sean Bean
Director: Tarsem Singh
Writers: Melissa Wallack, Jason Keller (based on story by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm)
Distributor: Relativity Media
MPAA Rating: PG for fantasy action and mild rude humor
Running Time: 106 minutes
Script - 6
Performance - 7
Direction - 6
Cinematography - 8
Music/Sound - 7
Editing - 7
Production - 9
Total - 6.5 out of 10.0