When you put a “fresh” spin on a fairy tale, it usually winds up being a little stale.
But Mirror Mirror is quite the whimsical surprise, humoring the children and amazing all eyes.
Spring Break is upon us, and parents are sure to head to the movies so they can have a little break from entertaining their little ones. Unfortunately (or so I initially thought), there will be only one movie aimed at younger moviegoers besides The Lorax, which is nearing its fifth week in theaters. So it’s Mirror Mirror or no film at all, and judging from the trailer, I would have voted for your family to stay in. Judging from the actual movie, though, I recommend that you and the kids have a look.
The movie starts off predictably enough – the Evil Queen (Julia Roberts) begins telling the story that we all know and love, peppered with several annoying, snarky comments and delusional compliments of herself. They work at getting the older children to laugh. She claims that the fairy tale is her story, not Snow White’s, so we get to know more about what exactly would possess a woman to behave as the Evil Queen does. After Roberts stops reading, the film goes WAY off book. What follows is a farcical romp through the woods that includes a handsome prince without pants (the dashing and versatile Armie Hammer), thieving dwarves on stilts with names like Napoleon and Chuck, and a bumbling servant (Nathan Lane, as theatrical as ever) who would not look out of place in a Three Stooges sketch. The Queen is all about lavish parties and anti-aging treatments (beware of the Queen’s disgusting “treatment” scene) at the expense of the villagers and does not have time to show Snow White (Lily Collins) anything but contempt. As soon as Snow escapes the threatening eyes of her stepmother, she joins the dwarves on a quest to take back her kingdom. Of course, the Queen and her magical reflection are on a mission to get rid of Snow White forever.
After a slew of predictable jokes and antics, I was irritated, but something about the movie held my interest. Every scene is visually delicious, which is expected since Tarsem Singh (The Cell, Immortals) directed it and never misses a chance to incorporate grandiose splashes of color and texture and extreme shooting angles. But what really made this movie increasingly more enjoyable for me was the unabashed foolishness and weird urgency with which the intensely committed actors played this story out. The plot and style were reminiscent of The Princess Bride and The Lion King, and Singh allowed his Indian culture to shape the premise of the film. In popular Bollywood movies, the only thing that really makes sense and anchors the film is the central love story. No matter how ridiculous this movie became, it was always obvious that Snow White’s love for her father, her prince, and her kingdom would triumph over the Queen’s love of money and beauty. Western critics may slam this as simple or childish, but isn’t this a children’s story?
The cast was definitely buying Singh’s vision and was serious about not taking themselves too seriously. It takes guts to trust a director that much, and it takes a special kind of strength to be a mature woman in Hollywood and portray a woman who feels that her beauty is fading. Julia Roberts is quite convincing as the insecure Queen and scores extra points for doing her signature laugh at the most unexpected moment. Lily Collins does an excellent job of transitioning from scared and clueless to fierce and clever, and she isn’t a bad dancer, either. Stay for the credits and you’ll understand. I adore Nathan Lane and Armie Hammer and I love them more after seeing them play totally embarrassing characters with such confidence.
The fighting scenes are strange, everyone seems crazy and the progression of the film is far from smooth, but Mirror Mirror will definitely keep adults and children alike entertained for years to come. It has more great lessons than the original fairy tale and manages to be funny and yes, even fresh.
Final Grade: B-