Mirror, Mirror (2012) / Comedy-Fantasy
MPAA rated: PG for violence and some rude humor
Running time: 106 min.
Cast: Julia Roberts, Lily Collins, Armie Hammer, Nathan Lane, Martin Klebba, Ronald Lee Clark, Jordan Prentice, Mark Povinelli, Joe Gnoffo, Danny Woodburn, Sebastian Saraceno, Robert Emms, Mare Winningham, Michael Lerner, Sean Bean
Director: Tarsem Singh
Screenplay: Jason Keller, Mark Klein
The Brothers Grimm classic gets dusted off yet one more time, the first of two Snow White adaptations done in 2012 alone (Snow White and the Huntsman being the other).
The story starts with the disappearance of the goodly king, whose peoples all loved him, including young Snow White (Collins, Priest), the daughter he adored and what was left to him to care for after his wife, the queen, died in childbirth. The land is now presided over by the king's second wife, the wicked queen (Roberts, Charlie Wilson's War), who keeps Snow White perpetually locked away in the castle. On her 18th birthday, Snow escapes the castle to see the town's suffering, where, along the way, she encounters and saves the handsome Prince Andrew Alcott (Hammer, J. Edgar) and his right-hand man. The two would make for an attractive pairing, but when they meet up later at the palace, it is the evil Queen who has her sights set on Alcott, if only to keep the coffers full now that she has depleted the city of all riches. She orders Snow White killed, though the young girl makes her escape, eventually joining forces with seven thieving dwarves in the forest, and from them, she learns all the ways to be a thief and valiant fighter, as they vow revenge on the queen who has taken so much from so many.
Directed by Tarsem Singh (Immortals, The Cell), who is more known for his stylish visuals than his attempts at mainstream comedy-fantasy, can't seem to get into a groove, neither comedically nor dramatically, other than to continue to pile on the grandiose color schemes and elaborate wardrobe. There are occasions when such a visionary appeal comes to life, such as a scene whereby the magical mirror image of the Queen sends two marionettes down to take care of the meddling dwarves. It's a beautifully conceived scene that deserves better treatment, particularly when one of the figures ends up getting a face, peeking under beds, and making vocal tones for reasons that make no real sense from a brainless wooden puppet standpoint.
The script by Marc Klein (A Good Year, Serendipity) and Jason Keller (Machine Gun Preacher) is one with contemporary audiences in mind, and some references would feel more at home in a Shrek film. It feels like a film written for children, so perhaps some slack can be cut in this regard, but with that darn new snarky humor style, such as Prince Andrew remarking that the ending can't be changed because the old one works, having been focus-grouped.
Lily Collins, daughter of famous singer/drummer Phil Collins makes for an effective Snow White, seemingly innocent, goodly, and beautiful enough to gather her in the role. She handles both the slight comedy and the fighting well, as Singh's version fashions a damsel who is far from being in distress, and is usually the one saving the other men's bacons when the time is called for. Armie Hammer comes off much more stiff, delivering lines in a monotone voice that greatly resembles to deadpan delivery of Brendan Fraser in his adventure films, and his chemistry seems to work better with Roberts than with Collins, despite the age discrepancy, perhaps due to his milquetoast demeanor. Most of the film is taken up by Julia Roberts and her attempt to be a bitchy but amusing queen, but her demeanor comes off most of the time as obvious and out of sorts. She does seem to be amused by her own ability to be finally deliciously evil, but it doesn't necessarily translate well to solid laughs, given the lack of wit in the writing. But the dwarves are cast well, and their interplay leads to the only genuine moments of humor that don't feel forced.
The film ends with a completely incongruous moment whereby one of the characters bursts out into song, followed by the rest of the characters around performing a choreographed Bollywood dance number. Despite the fact that Singh is an Indian filmmaker, the Indian styles have nothing to do with the rest of the film, and feels entirely shoehorned on a whim without regard for time or place of Snow White. The rest comes off like a combination of the spoof-factor of the aforementioned Shrek (sans cleverness) and the whimsical adolescent outlook of Ella Enchanted.
Mirror, Mirror fails primarily as a comedy, as it offers very few honest laughs other than comedic actors making funny faces and pretending to be sarcastic. It also fails as a fantasy that inspires awe or an adventure that offers lands we'd love to explore more of. It's a shallow, awkward and conceptually misguided misfire that should only please tweens and those who have low expectations of the potential entertainment value to be had.
©2012 Vince Leo