Love it or loathe it, Mirror Mirror is a visually stunning fairy tale adventure. As with director Tarsem Singh's past projects, the visual design of the film overshadows the story and if only this campy version of Snow White had dialogue and action that lived up to its set design and costumes, Mirror Mirror would be the fairest of the fairy tale films. Instead, this is Snow White on mushrooms, a psychedelic spectacle that is gorgeous to look at but doesn't offer much aside from its beautiful visuals.
Mirror Mirror has its fun moments, most of which come from Armie Hammer getting goofy as a handsome Prince who thinks way too highly of himself, Julia Roberts camping it up as a beauty-obsessed evil Queen, and the combined work of Jordan Prentice, Joey Gnoffo, Sebastian Saraceno, Martin Klebba, Mark Povinelli, Ronald Lee Clark, and Danny Woodburn as the seven dwarfs (none of whom are named Dopey). Roberts is the Queen of Camp in Mirror Mirror, with the Oscar winner embracing the part of Snow White's evil stepmom with a real appreciation for the pure wicked silliness of the character. The acting elevates this film from a totally forgettable goofball comedy to a fairy tale adventure that sporadically entertains.
Writers Marc Klein and Jason Keller use the original fairy tale as the jumping off point for a story that lets Snow White take more control of her destiny. Mirror Mirror has all the basics: a King who's disappeared leaving his young daughter with snow white skin and raven hair in the care of an evil stepmother. The Queen is jealous of Snow White's beauty and doesn't want her distracting the handsome Prince, so she sends her off to be killed by a henchman in the forest surrounding the kingdom. The Queen's servant can't go through with the murder and leaves Snow to fend for herself in the terrifying forest that's home to a vicious beast (created via disappointingly less than perfect CGI).
Rescued by seven dwarfs, Mirror Mirror's version of the story finds the dwarfs (who have resorted to robbing anyone who travels through the forest, including the Prince and the Queen's tax collector) teaching the young beauty how to handle a knife and a sword. Snow becomes a member of the dwarfs' little band of thieves, though only after making them pledge they will return the gold they've stolen from the Queen to the poor townsfolk who have suffered greatly since the Queen has taken over the country following the King's disappearance.
Can Snow White save the kingdom? Will she win the love of the handsome Prince? And what will become of the narcissistic Queen? Really? You need to ask these questions?
The Bottom Line
Mirror Mirror is a fairy tale adventure comedy - stressing the comedy - that's wildly uneven but still sort of fun. The action is more playful than brutal, the love story between Snow White and the Prince is as chaste as Twilight's, and Lily Collins' Snow is a heroine all ages can root for (and a much stronger female character than in the original fairy tale). Plus, we do get to see Armie Hammer without his shirt quite often which goes a long way toward making Mirror Mirror entertaining.
Director Tarsem Singh isn't known for kid-friendly comedies yet that's what Mirror Mirror is: a wild campy adventure that's sweetly naive and should play better to teens than it will to more mature adults. It's not at all what you would expect from the filmmaker behind The Cell, The Fall, and Immortals, and it might be a case of the director biting off a bit more than he could chew as the final cut is uneven and disjointed. There's very little dark or frightening about this take on the fairy tale, which is bizarre given the resume of the man behind the camera, and the comedy lacks the bite it needs to work for more than the younger audience members.
Visually enchanting, Mirror Mirror is an example of style over substance, of the use of brightly colored costumes and fantastical sets to distract viewers rather than enhance the story. Still, Mirror Mirror does occasionally work - almost in spite of itself - despite its inability to find and settle on a tone.
Mirror Mirror was directed by Tarsem Singh and is rated PG for some fantasy action and mild rude rumor.
Theatrical Release: March 30, 2012
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