Fox // 2012 // 106 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker // July 2nd, 2012
The Snow White legend comes alive!
Snow White must have a hell of an agent. The 200-year-old is popping up more than characters a tenth of her age. This year alone, she's been the subject of two high-profile movies and a TV series.
Two of these -- Snow White and the Huntsman and Once Upon a Time -- were overall pretty well received.
I'm reviewing Mirror Mirror.
The other one.
On her 18th birthday, Snow White (Lily Collins, The Blind Side) is one unhappy princess. Her father, the King, was long ago lost to a forest beastie, and she's been raised by her stepmother, the Queen (Julia Roberts, Pretty Woman). The Queen's vanity and lavish lifestyle have left the kingdom in poverty.
One day, a handsome prince from another country, Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer, The Social Network), is traveling through the woods. Suddenly, he's attacked by half-a-dozen-plus-one bandits -- giant bandits! During the fight, he knocks down a bandit, whose legs come off. They're not giants -- they're dwarfs! Seven of 'em! Alcott thinks he can get the best of these tiny tormentors, but he has a surprise coming.
After an embarrassing thrashing, he's left hanging -- literally. When Snow White sneaks out of the castle, she finds the Prince, releases him, then runs off. Half undressed, he shows up at the castle, where his athletic good looks and news of his kingdom's fortune catch the eye of the Queen.
But the Prince only has eyes for Snow White, so the Queen orders her footman, Brighton (Nathan Lane, The Birdcage), to take Snow into the woods and feed her to the beast.
But Brighton can't bring himself to harm Snow. He leaves her in the woods, where she wanders for a while before happening upon a small cottage...occupied by seven small men.
Mirror Mirror spends 106 minutes trying to do what Jay Ward's Fractured Fairy Tales did in five and barely comes close. This is a bland, tone-deaf film that juggles being safe enough for children with being arch enough for their parents. Unfortunately, the script, direction, and performances lack the savvy to keep even those two balls in the air.
The opening moments, with Evil Queen Julia Roberts narrating the story and tossing in snide asides, are promising. Maybe rather than focusing on the tried and true Snow White tale, we'll be getting the Queen's side of things -- kind of like John Scieszka's sly and clever children's book The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, a revisionist take told from the sympathetic perspective of the villain.
Unfortunately, while the story is certainly revisionist -- or "reimagined" -- none of it does anything to enhance what we already know about Snow White or the Evil Queen. It's mainly played for comedy, but it's too obvious to work in a memorable way. The notion of actually offering a fresh perspective rather than just larding the whole thing up with effects monsters and low humor was, evidently, beyond the ambitions of the filmmakers.
Instead, we get a lot of pratfalling shenanigans and poop jokes, along with one-liners that will stymie even the most sophisticated child. Instead of working in a mine, the dwarfs are highway robbers, and they're decidedly cynical and unpleasant. The Prince is something of a clueless goof, and for a big chunk of time, forced to act like a puppy because of a magic spell gone awry. Snow herself is not just a sweet girl who eats an apple and goes into a coma; this is an empowered Snow White who at one point notes that while most fairy tales feature princes saving princesses, she'd prefer to do it her way.
During the interview flurries before the film was released, Roberts spoke glowingly of how much fun she had making Mirror Mirror. It shows. The Queen is a vain, bitchy thing who spends her time throwing lavish parties, fretting about her looks, and ordering terrible things done to those who offend her. Roberts has a great time bringing out her inner hag. It's not exactly what you'd call a good performance, but the hamminess certainly fits the character.
I hate to sound shallow, and certainly Lily Collins is an attractive young woman, but if she's been cast as "the fairest in the land," didn't anyone think to trim her big Groucho Marx eyebrows? On the up side, those brows are the most interesting part of her performance, which is otherwise plucky and perfunctory.
Fox offers Mirror Mirror (Blu-ray) in a Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy combo set. The image on the Blu-ray is terrific. Detail is impeccable, colors vibrant, and the transfer is clean without losing its film-like quality. The surround audio is clear and immersive.
For supplements, we get a handful of featurettes: "Looking Through the Mirror" is your basic "making of," "I Believe I Can Dance" focuses on a musical number, and "Puppies and Princes" is a kid-friendly short that gives us dogs "helping" Armie Hammer with his scenes as a puppy. There's also a digital storybook that offers the chance to "read" the film and electronically turn the pages, deleted scenes, and a trailer.
But the best part is, the case has a hologram on front! One of those things where, if you look at it one way, it's Julia Roberts' face, and if you turn it, it becomes Lily Collins' face! It is so weird watching Julia Roberts' tastefully plucked eyebrows morph into Lily Collins' defiantly bushy eyebrows.
It's possible I'm being too hard on Mirror Mirror. It was pretty clearly intended as a 'tween girl timewaster, with a little demographic bleed through for younger kids and adults. The story moves along well enough, with stops for goofy humor that will either delight or bore, and the limited number of fight scenes and special effects will keep the attention of those who like that sort of thing.
The film also looks very good. The sets and costumes are fantastic.
While this wasn't meant to be a masterpiece, but with a little more polish, it at least could have been a guilty pleasure. Look at how much fun TV series Once Upon a Time and Grimm are having repurposing fairy tales. That sense of adventure and creativity are just lacking here, and it makes Mirror Mirror not an achingly bad experience, just not something that's really worth seeking out.
A film about magic and adventure that's neither magical nor adventurous, Mirror Mirror is an also-ran in the increasingly competitive fairy tale knockoff race.
Guilty of being once upon a so-so time.
Review content copyright © 2012 Tom Becker; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 106 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Deleted Scenes
* Digital Storybook
* DVD Copy
* UltraViolet Download
* Official Site