2012 is apparently the year of the fairy tale. Not only is TV’s Once Upon A Time a bonafide hit, but Hollywood is rolling out not one, but two versions of the classic Snow White story. We’ll have to wait until June to see Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron take a stab at their version of the beloved tale, but in the meantime, Mirror Mirror is set to enchant audiences with its own supposedly new and improved interpretation. So, which of the two Snow White movies will prove to be the fairest of them all? Well, let’s just say I’m pretty sure it won’t be Mirror Mirror.
Helmed by Tarsem “king of overproduced aesthetic” Singh, Mirror Mirror pretty much follows the basic set-up provided by the Brothers Grimm story. Snow White is the beautiful daughter of a long-dead king who’s hated by her evil step-mother. The Queen wants Snow out of the way so she can become the official prettiest face in the kingdom so she sends her out into the forest with a henchman to be killed. Thankfully, the henchman takes pity on Snow and allows her to steal away into the trees where she meets a quirky band of dwarves who take her in and hide her from the Queen’s wrath.
From there, screenwriters Jason Keller (the mostly awful Machine Gun Preacher) and Melissa Wallack (this is her first writing credit) attempt to subvert the tale into a slapstick feminist romp that’s meant to mock the old-fashioned ideals set out by the original story. At least, I think that’s what they were trying to do. It’s not entirely clear because Mirror Mirror is a total mess from start to finish.
It’s filled to the brim with campy gags, poorly drawn characters and cringe-inducing acting that results in a vacuous and outright tedious fantasy film that will appeal to no one except toddlers who are dazzled by all of Singh’s bright colours and flashing lights (or possibly by those who especially enjoy watching Armie Hammer get hit in the groin).
Odd casting choices also do little to help matters; Julia Roberts is simply not believable as the Evil Queen especially in her choice to adopt an atrocious Brit accent that does nothing but corrode her potential for both menace and wit. Lily Collins is a perfectly likable actress (despite the bad choice to give her Bert from Sesame Street’s eyebrows), but isn’t great at conveying the strength of character that this girl power version of Snow White needs to have.
Both Armie Hammer (as the Prince) and Nathan Lane (as the Queen’s chief servant) do well with the film’s ample physical comedy but one can’t help but recognize a little bit of embarrassment behind their manic smiles as they’re forced to act like a cockroach (Lane) and a dumb puppy (Hammer) – at least they get the best one-liners in the movie.
While Singh’s realization of Snow White’s world does boast a certain flair, with its overblown feast of lush costumes and CGI-enhanced environments, it doesn’t excuse the fact that it’s clear that the script — and everything else for that matter — takes a back seat to the “visual craft” of the film. It’s a problem that Singh’s other films (specifically last year’s Immortals) have suffered from as well: they’re shallow, empty vessels with lots of pretty things to look at along the way.
Ultimately, kids may get a few giggles out of Mirror Mirror’s silly hijinks, but there’s no denying that the film’s bored lack of focus, and shortage of engaging ideas will prove to alienate the very audience it’s directed towards.
That’s probably not quite the happily ever after Singh was hoping to achieve.