Title: Mirror Mirror
Directed By: Tarsem Singh
Starring: Julia Robert, Lily Collins, Armie Hammer, Nathan Lane, Jordan Prentice, Mark Povinelli, Joe Gnoffo, Danny Woodburn, Sebastian Saraceno, Martin Klebba, Ronald Lee Clark
In Tarsem Singh I still trust. No, his films may not be the best of the best, but you can always count on Singh to wholly embrace whatever he’s working on, push the limits and, in turn, make it his own.
In the vain of the beloved fairytale, Mirror Mirror tells the story of Snow White (Lily Collins). After losing her father, the King, she’s got no choice, but to live with her stepmother, the Queen (Julia Robert), who, fueled by jealously, banishes Snow to her room in the palace. When her 18th birthday rolls around, Snow gets curious and sneaks out of the palace and into the town where she finds that no one sings and dances like they did during her father’s rule, rather are stricken by hefty taxes, taxes the Queen collects to throw lavish parties and perhaps one day another wedding.
When Snow White catches the eye of a Prince (Armie Hammer) the Queen wants for herself, the Queen sends Snow to her death in the woods. However, with the help of a band of dwarfs, not only does Snow survive the ordeal, but grows strong and determined to restore the kingdom.
Mirror Mirror kicks off with a wildly impressive animated sequence that recalls what happened to the King and where that left poor Snow. The opening also provides a solid taste of what’s to come, namely the silly nature of the story, as Roberts tells the tale in an English accent, but cuts to an American one to highlight her jests and quips. Something about that presentation doesn’t feel quite right, and definitely not accurate, but Mirror Mirror isn’t about accuracy in the least, but rather simple and silly fun.
There’s very little depth to this story. Sure, there’s quite a bit about fitting into society and believing in yourself, but the large majority of that is simply said, not felt and certainly not emoted on screen. In fact, Mirror Mirror feels quite like, well, a fairytale – in the style of a book meant for a child. We get a glimpse of one scene through the pretty and colorful pictures on the page and then once that’s been tapped, it’s time to turn and move onto the next. Nothing really sinks in; the material just is what it is and when a particular portion of it is done, the story continues.
Had the pacing of the film been just a little bit faster, there would have been nothing wrong with that. For a surface value piece like this, the jokes needed to land – all of them. While the slow pacing of the piece didn’t really make the film drag as a whole, it did kill a few of the gags. Had the editor trimmed a frame or two here and there, the banter would have been quicker and, therefore, funnier.
While it does feel like Roberts and co. are playing dress up the entire time, sometimes you just can’t help, but to laugh. That laughter might come from a mixture of something being funny and feeling a sense of embarrassment for the actors, but regardless, it’s laughter. And that’s not to say that Mirror Mirror doesn’t have any truly humorous gags. One technique that almost always earns a hearty laugh is the film’s ability to make fun of itself, like the guards just letting Snow walk right out of the castle or one character taking a jab at the use of focus groups.
A major reason Mirror Mirror works at all is the cast. Everybody really gives it their all, most notably Roberts and Hammer. They suffer through some of the most ridiculous behavior, but because they both embrace it, it’s more likely to come across as funny rather than absurd. The dwarfs all stand out as well, but specifically Mark Povinelli as Half Pint who has a particularly amusing running gag involving a crush on Snow. In fact, his connection with Snow is far more believable than that whole love triangle between her, the Prince and the Queen. And as for Collins, she certainly does her best, too, but she’s just not a leading lady. She may have an intriguing look and also one that screams Snow White, but she just can’t command a film. Had the filmmakers cast a more powerful presence, perhaps Mirror Mirror would have been more about rooting for the heroine, rather than just going along for the ride.
Then again, this is a Tarsem Singh ride; it’s undoubtedly an incredibly visual spectacle. The set design is pitch perfect. It’s realistic enough to pull you into the story, but still has the cartoonish charm of an innocent fairytale. As usual, Eiko Ishioka’s costume design nearly steals the show, the lineup packed with vivacious colors and bold designs. There are a few moments where Singh’s coverage doesn’t do the setting justice, particularly in cases where he opts to have objects in the foreground that just don’t work, but generally, he offers up a notably fresh palette of shot choices that are quite enjoyable to watch.
Mirror Mirror is being pushed as a four-quadrant family film, but this one is certainly not for everyone, particularly moviegoers without the patience for silliness. While I’d like to bet the film could get just about anyone to at least crack a smile, it’s tough to say whether that smile will come from laughing with the material or at it.