Mirror, Mirror is one of a few different takes on the Snow White fairytale going around at the moment. Unlike Snow White and the Huntsman, which is a more serious action fantasy type of thing, Mirror, Mirror is a light comedy that at times wanders into pantomime territory. Directed by Tarsem Singh (Immortals, The Fall, The Cell) Mirror, Mirror is by no means a brilliant film, but it is entertaining, with a few laughs (though probably not as many as were intended), and often impressive visuals.
The story goes…. Once Upon a time, there was a good king, a widower, who ruled a happy kingdom with his perfect princess daughter, Snow White (Lilly Collins – that’s Phil Collins’ daughter, by the way). The king marries a beautiful new queen (Julia Roberts), who also happens to be an evil witch, and then the king goes missing, presumed dead. The evil queen takes over the kingdom, and Snow White is a prisoner in her own castle.
On her eighteenth birthday, Snow White sneaks out of the castle and is appalled by the miserable and ruinous her father’s kingdom has become. She also happens upon a handsome fellow in the forest who has just been attacked by seven dwarf bandits. She saves him – note, she saves him – and goes on back to the castle determined to put the queen’s wrongs to right and restore the kingdom, which is of course rightfully hers.
The handsome fellow, who is of course a charming prince, comes to the castle and the queen decides she’s going to marry him. But of course, his heart has been lost to the beautiful girl he met in the forest, who he soon finds out is the princess, Snow White. Enraged with jealousy, the queen has Snow White taken to the forest to be killed, but the kindly foppish servant (Nathan Lane) takes pity on her and sets her free. She teams up with the seven dwarf bandits and they all work together to overthrow the evil queen. Adventures, true love, honour and all of the rest of it ensue.
Lily Collins does a fairly good job as Snow White. She’s not a simpering princess and the film makes a continuing point that she can take care of herself, hold herself in a fight, and even rescue the prince, rather than the other way around. It’s a nice change from the usual fairytale trope and a humorous treatment stops it from becoming overly preachy for gender equality.
Armie Hammer (The Social Network) is ok as the prince, but it’s a role that could have been played by any other polite, handsome and well muscled actor. He doesn’t do anything special with the character so it’s a good thing he had a strong cast around him to play off. Similarly, the king could have been played by anyone but I am assuming his kindly, benevolent nature was matched to Sean Bean only for his Game of Thrones popularity. Not that he’s in it for all that long, so his role is little more than a cameo.
The two strongest points in terms of characters in Mirror Mirror were the dwarves and the queen. The dwarves, played by actual dwarves including Martin Klebber (Pirates of the Caribbean) and Danny Woodburn (Seinfeld), are a humorous bunch. While they’re not using the traditional Snow White fairytale dwarf names – instead of Grumpy, Dopey, Sleepy and the rest, we now have Butcher, Napoleon, Grimm, Chuckles, Wolf, Grub and Half Pint – they do for the most part take on the distinct character types of the traditional Snow White dwarves. They’re all sweetness underneath their fierce bandit exterior and are mostly played for comic and sentimental effect. Their first appearance, disguised as giant with strange spring like legs did come off as a little too pantomime for my tastes but the gag grew tolerable and almost amusing through the film.
Julia Roberts has done a marvellous job with the queen. I’m not convinced Roberts can play a truly evil character as too much “Julia Roberts” comes through in everything she does. This is fine for roles that suit her, and this one does. This evil queen is quite comical and over-the-top in everything and there was a real sense that Roberts was having a bit of fun with the character.
The queen’s magical mirror was conceptually and visually impressive. Rather than the same old talking mirror we see in just about ever Snow White adaptation, the queen steps into this mirror and comes out through a lake in a strange, watery world where hew own reflection – played by a pallid Roberts – live in a strange Balinese looking hut and tells her the truths of the world and delivers the Queen her magical spells, though magic is always at a cost. The same plots could have been delivered in a far less visually interesting way, and it’s a plus for the film that this was done so differently. The same can be said for the prologue section of the movie which is all digitally animated. It wasn’t necessary and could have been done a number of ways, but the choice to animate gave the movie a good sense of separation and section and was overall, quite well done.
Mirror Mirror has some other visually impressive moments, mainly due to the extraorinary costumes – the masquerade ball scene was lovely to look at, and the Queen’s wedding scene was, while a bit on the silly side, certainly eye catching. Snow White’s wedding at the end looked stunning and had a great twist on the evil queen’s apple story.
The final wedding would have been a nicely rounded ending to a largely enjoyable film if it didn’t then, for absolutely no reason, break into a Bollywood style song and dance number. This ending was so abruptly out of place in the film it was just embarrassing to watch.
Overall, besides the appallingly unnecessary Bollywood ending, Mirror Mirror is a reasonably solid piece of entertainment that should please if you’re not looking for anything too serious or intelligent to watch. It’s also family friendly with enough to please both young and older viewers.