Mirror Mirror

Mirror Mirror tries to be an amiably goofball spin on Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. The problem is that it doesn’t have a spin. It casts Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen, affording us the rare opportunity to see Roberts play mean and rude. It turns the dwarves into a mildly disgruntled bunch of forest-dwelling bandits, like diminutive Merry Men, which, whatever.  There are some isolated hijinks involving malfunctioning love potions and so forth, a meta-joke or two, and a dead-end subplot concerning how the Queen keeps her subjects in check.  But this isn’t exactly a new vision of Snow White. It’s more like a disorganized, ineffectual riff.

The best part of the film is Armie Hammer as the Prince, mostly because he’s the only one here who seems to have a clear sense of what he’s after – a gentle spoof of the straitlaced fairy tale hero, noble and seeking adventure. He’s funny and effortless, mocking his own square-jawed good looks and baritone; at one point, a magic spell turns him into a dog, and Mirror Mirror’s shrewdest and most interesting move is to eschew any effects and just let Hammer playact it.

Everyone else is at sea. Lynn Collins’ Snow White is a total non-entity, and on the strength of this and Abduction, I am prepared to declare Collins the most tedious human being on the planet. The dwarves are mystifyingly unfunny, to the point where I’m not clear on what the screenplay was attempting to do with them; they seem to each have a “quirk” of some sort (one of them really wants a girlfriend; another is named “Wolf” and seems to be a shaman maybe), but that’s about it, and I couldn’t even say if that’s true for each of the seven. (At one point, someone regards the dwarves and tells them that “You’re short, and it’s funny,” so maybe that’s the joke.)  Julia Roberts is amusing and appears to enjoy playing against type, but she’s at best worth a chuckle or two. There’s also Nathan Lane as the Queen’s lackey (doubling as the Huntsman), and he has a couple of funny lines but not much else to do.

Director Tarsem Singh, too, is neutered. Singh’s entire filmography – consisting, before now, of The Cell, The Fall, and Immortals – is premised on his elaborate surrealist visions, and while a fairy tale seems suited to this m.o., the visuals in Mirror Mirror are plasticky and sterile, hardly resembling the gonzo canvasses for which he’s known. (I did like the dream world to which the Queen retreats by passing through her magic mirror; maybe Tarsem needs a world within a world, as in The Cell and The Fall, to really let loose.) There’s a climactic appearance of a CGI beastie that’s so generic it’s almost distressing to watch.

While the closing credits play, the cast, led by Collins, performs a splashy Bollywood-style musical number called “I Believe in Love.” (There’s a story behind the song.) It’s energetic and infectious, and I thought: now here’s a take on Snow White I want to see. The rest of Mirror Mirror is vague, noncommittal nonsense.

Eugene Novikov

Seeking in movies meaning and reflection in real-time. On the look out for biography, thriller & drama best pieces.

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