** (out of 5)
March 30, 2012
Julia Roberts as THE QUEEN
Lily Collins as SNOW WHITE
Armie Hammer as PRINCE ALCOTT
Nathan Lane as BRIGHTON
Directed by: Tarsem
BY KEVIN CARR
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Every now and then, a film comes along whose trailers alone are so odious that I can barely stand watching them. I dread movies like this, but it’s a hazard of the job.
“Mirror Mirror” was one such film. Knowing that there are more (and from the trailers, apparently better) Snow White adaptations coming out didn’t help things along. I found the trailer to be forced, goofy, annoying and entirely unfunny.
When I did see the film (which received limited screenings in various markets… never a good sign), I didn’t hate it. I didn’t particularly like it, either. But at least it wasn’t excruciating to watch.
And that is pretty much the nicest thing I can say about “Mirror Mirror”… it’s not dreadful.
The story is a somewhat loose adaptation of the classic fairy tale. The beautiful princess Snow White (Lily Collins) is kept captive by her jealous, evil step-mother queen (Julia Roberts). When a magical mirror tells the queen that Snow’s beauty will soon surpass her own, she banishes her to woods. Snow befriends a band of seven dwarves and catches the eye of a charming prince (Armie Hammer).
“Mirror Mirror” is directed by visionary filmmaker Tarsem Singh, who delivers some of the most creative and eye-popping visuals you’ll see on any screen. His hands are all over “Mirror Mirror” and it’s lavish production design. Unfortunately, as beautiful as the film looks, it’s equivalent of watching an awkward community theater production that just has really nice costumes.
Like other films from Tarsem, including last November’s “Immortals,” “Mirror Mirror” lacks the connective tissue of story and characters. Beyond the initial set-up, which can be attributed to the Brothers Grimm story written two hundred years ago, there’s not much in there.
To compensate for the lack of foundation in the characters, the actors ham up their roles to a ludicrous degree. Whether it’s Julia Roberts cackling at the camera or Armie Hammer acting like a puppy in love, these roles get annoying fast. And on top of it, Lily Collins as Snow White looks the part, but there’s really nothing in her acting that makes her memorable.
On one hand, I can appreciate what this film is doing. But on the other hand, it’s an empty effort. Much of the film plays out like a really expensive television adaptation from the 70s. I used to like watching those around the holidays with my family, but I’ve grown out of them now.
In this sense, I’m not quite sure what “Mirror Mirror” is trying to be. It’s clearly aimed at the family audience, but the emptiness and lack of charm never connects. It’s not really a kids’ movie because it has the focus on the adult themes of marriage, jealousy, murder and even some politics scattered throughout.
This leads the film to overcompensate with misappropriated slapstick comedy the way it overcompensates with overacting. The seven dwarves are reduced to simple jokes and pratfalls, even going as far to adding “Scooby Doo” sound effects when they get hit of take a tumble.
True, it’s not as godawful as the trailers led me to believe it is, but it runs out of steam in the first act. Considering how truly creative the production design is, there’s shockingly little creativity beyond the look of the movie.
Ultimately, “Mirror Mirror” is the cinematic equivalent of Jessica Simpson – pretty to look at but vacuous in nature and thought.