(2012)3Alaina O'ConnorMirror Mirror is a charming, lavish comedy-fantasy reimagining of the classic Brothers Grimm story of Snow White. Director Tarsem Singh sets a tongue-in-cheek tone and attempts to straddle the world of the fairy tale with a modern perspective. Singh channels the amazing visual stylings of some of his previous works and presents extraordinary set pieces, a vibrant color palate, and lavish costumes that all serve to add depth and richness to the film. Though the characters look like they're out of another time, the script has a contemporary tone, creating a fast-paced narrative that gently mocks the fairy-tale genre.
After the mysterious disappearance of the king (Sean Bean), a wicked queen (Julia Roberts) keeps his daughter Snow White (Lily Collins) locked up in the castle as she schemes for control of the kingdom and the attention of the charming Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer). When Snow White's beauty wins the heart of the prince instead, the queen banishes her to the forest, where a terrifying man-eating beast hungrily awaits. Rescued by a band of diminutive highway robbers (the seven dwarves), Snow White grows into a fearless young woman determined to take back her realm from the treacherous queen.
The film boasts an energetic cast, with Lily Collins leading the way as the beautiful and innocent Snow White, who learns how to fight during her exile in order to reclaim her kingdom and the throne that is rightfully hers. Armie Hammer is convincing as the prince and manages to add a self-deprecating comedic touch, as the film's humor is often at his expense -- he is captured by dwarves on accordion stilts and is toyed with by the queen -- but this is really Julia Roberts' vehicle. She plays the queen as domineering, shallow, and self-serving, using her authority to get what she wants. Roberts is incapable of distancing herself from being "Julia Roberts," but that may be part of the joke, and she seems to be having a good time playing an evil character, although she's still somewhat sympathetic.
Screenwriters Marc Klein and Jason Keller (working from a story by Melissa Wallack) keep the core story intact, while at the same time injecting a more modern sensibility; however, not all of the elements mesh well together. The filmmakers changed some of the key plot points of the classic Snow White story, including the ending, and also added a few contemporary touches that at times seem jarringly out of place. We're never given the satisfaction of the mirror telling the queen that she is not "the fairest in the land," nor the infamous apple moment in which Snow White takes a bite and falls into a deep sleep. The storyline changes don't add much, but rather impede the film's momentum, and it all becomes a little bit too silly. Still, the movie is enjoyable to watch, especially with the filmmakers' astounding attention to detail, which adds significant weight to this oddball, yet charming and enchanted world.