When you are the first of two Snow White movies opening in one year, you want to be really really good.
Unfortunately Mirror, Mirror is merely good.
Taking the story of Snow White and trying to make it more of a feminist tale, Mirror, Mirror manages to be beautiful to look at but without too much underneath all that beauty.
As with most fairy tales, the more interesting character is the evil one. Good tends to be so boring, which is why are all so fascinated with the baddies. Darth Vader is more interesting than Luke and the Evil Queen is more interesting than Snow White. As said Evil Queen, Julia Roberts relishes playing the baddie. Her Queen is more self-amused and vain than purely evil, however, and that might be part of why she’s not 100% believable. Enjoyable but not a true Evil Queen.
Lily Collins, as in Phil Collins, is Snow White, leading with her eyebrows. She’s very sweet and looks lovely as both the princess and the outlaw, but her Snow White doesn’t have much fire. She wields a sword, saving the prince before he saves her, but it’s more comical than female empowerment. Her prince charming is played by Armie Hammer who actually surprised me. His physicality was impressive; he played a puppy much better than someone of his size, 6 foot 5, has any right to. It doesn’t hurt that he has a sense of humor about himself and has no problem making a fool out of himself, even when shirtless.
Nathan Lane is always winning as the Queen’s toadying lackey whose adventures as a cockroach are best left undescribed. Lane manages to elevate his shtick to fit in with the film, borscht belt mixing in well with high fashion.
But for all its gorgeous sets (the Queen’s bedroom was particularly spectacular) and costumes by the late Eiko Ishioka that jumped off the screen without any stupid 3D effects, the movie left me wanting more. We all know the end of the story of Snow White, it’s just a question of how you get there. The dialog went in between fairy tale-esque and slangy and couldn’t seem to settle anywhere in between. There were moments that were truly funny, but so much of it felt hollow. A big reveal at the end wasn’t all that surprising and just lacked any real emotion behind it.
The movie also decided to end on a musical number. This was cute, but was a bit too reminiscent of every single Shrek movie to really work for me. It has a bit of Bollywood flair, but just seemed out of place.
Director Tarsem Singh is known for his elaborate backgrounds. The Cell, while a fairly vile movie, was beautiful to look at. The Fall seemed more of a success in that it was both a visual delight and had some dramatic meat to it. The Immortals (he seems to like those simple titles doesn’t he?) went back to The Cell for lack of meaningful content paired with something beautiful to look at, this time with Greek flair. Mirror, Mirror lies somewhere in between his two extremes. Which is too bad to Mirror, Mirror…but not necessarily for Snow White and Hunstman…