[Review] – Mirror Mirror

21 Apr

Title: Mirror Mirror
Year: 2012
Director: Tarsem Singh
Writers: Melissa Wallack and Jason Keller, based on a story by Ms. Wallack, based on the original story by the Brothers Grimm
Starring: Lily Collins, Julia Roberts, Armie Hammer, Nathan Lane, Mare Winningham, Michael Lerner, Sean Bean, Danny Woodburn, Martin Klebba
MPAA Rating: PG, some fantasy action and mild rude humor
Runtime: 106 min
IMDb Rating: 5.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 48%
Metacritic: 46

And so the battle of the Snow White’s begins. As it’s been talked about so much, 2012 marks the arrival of two films based on the classic Brothers Grimm tale into theaters, and while both certainly look to be taking way different approaches to the subject matter, it’s still inevitable to make a comparison between the two. Now, while there’s still a bit over a month before we get Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron and Chris Hemsworth in Rupert SandersSnow White and the Huntsman, which is the Snow White film that looks the best to me, we can start judging the first one out of the gate, Tarsem Singh‘s Mirror Mirror.

The result? Well, the film is as visually gorgeous as was expected considering it was Tarsem Singh directing; and the visuals alone make this one a notch or two better than it would otherwise be. But the fact of the matter is that, as a film, this one doesn’t work all that well. This is a story that everyone knows all too well, so to make a new adaptation of it stand out this one had to either be hugely original in its approach to the classic story, or at least provide a more profound kind of exploration of these characters and themes. Well, Mirror Mirror may be beautiful enough, and that’s undeniable, but that’s about it.

Tarsem Singh is spectacularly gifted at crafting films that are just breathtakingly beautiful to look at. His The Cell and The Fall are both prime examples of that, and his 2011 effort, Immortals, while totally underwhelming still looked awesome enough for me to give it a B-. And well, Mirror Mirror can be handily added to that list of films that look rad. The costumes by Oscar-winner Eiko Ishioka, who died after completing this film, look amazing, and so do the cinematography, the set decoration, the art direction, you name it, this is a film that visually has it all. But that’s just the thing, you’ll be left marveling at how great everything that’s going on in front of you looks, but then you’ll realize that what’s actually going on isn’t nearly as worthy of your attention or time.

What Mirror Mirror also sees Mr. Singh attempt, other than making the film look as gorgeous as his other efforts, is try and provide a lighter hand when dealing with the material at hand. The film provides a great canvas for his bright colors and astounding visuals, and it keeps him comfortably dealing with the kind of mythological and fantastic lands he likes to play in, but it also demands for a PG rating and a really light sense of humor. He tries hard to make those funny bits land but, even though it works a couple of times, more often than not it will be painfully evident that he’s trying to do just that and the movie just drags along because of it.

Julia Roberts, who frequent readers will know I’m actually a big fan of, plays the Queen in this film. And when this one opens, with a really nicely done animation recounting all the background information about the Queen’s life, we instantly get the gist of how this film will try to set itself apart from being seen as a simple adaptation of the adored story. You see, Mirror Mirror tries to be super self-conscious and dry and somewhat sarcastic; the Queen’s opening narration sees her laughing at Snow White’s name and that sets the tone for how the film will try to play out its interpretation of the fairy tale genre, with the dwarves having far better roles here than in the animated film, and Snow White telling the Prince she doesn’t want to be a typical princess in need of a rescue.

The cast is actually quite good by themselves. Ms. Roberts steals the show easily as the Queen and you can just tell she’s having the time of her life playing this character, Armie Hammer as Prince Alcott is good enough, and even Lily Collins, who plays Snow White, has the look and feel of the character. But when you put them together I just got the feeling that there was nothing there, no great antagonism between the Queen and Snow White to get us going, no chemistry between the Prince and Snow White for us to get to root for them.

We have a Queen in charge of a bankrupt empire who needs to marry a wealthy visiting Prince and who vanishes her stepdaughter to a forest out of jealousy for her looks and youth, and then in the forest that princess meets the seven dwarves and plots to get back the kingdom that’s rightfully hers. You’d think that would be good enough to get this one off the ground, but there’s just no sense of urgency in the storytelling and the dialogue is truly horrible which means that many times this one moves just way too slowly, trying to provide jokes that just feel off and end up making the film feel like a great deal of separate pieces that on paper sounded nice together but not only was that not the case in reality, but the way they were arranged just wasn’t coherent at all.

I’m not ready to give Mirror Mirror a recommending grade, even though I still really like Tarsem Singh as a filmmaker and even though his last two big-budget attempts have been misfires to an extent I believe that once the man finds the right material to give his stylized trademarks I’m sure it’ll be truly awesome. Because visually this film truly is fantastic, and the many hugely creative things Mr. Singh pulls off here are incredible to witness, especially how he envisions the magic mirror the Queen talks to. But the dialogue and the energy is just not there to compliment the visuals, and while the actors seem to be having a good time they have no real chemistry and this film trips over itself more than once because of that. As far as the battle of the Snow White’s goes, Lily Collins and Julia Roberts have set the bar reasonably low for Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron.

Grade: C+

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2 Responses to “[Review] – Mirror Mirror”

  1. themovieuniverse April 21, 2012 at 2:45 pm #

    I agree with much of what you have to say here. I thought the film looked, in terms of visual, incredibly attractive and very easy on the eye. I thought Julia Roberts did a good job as the evil Queen and the rest of the cast all had their highlights. Unfortunately, the story and a little of the humour just wasn’t to my liking as much and that’s why I only gave Mirror Mirror a 5 out of 10 in my review.

    • ArtfullyBedraggled April 21, 2012 at 2:47 pm #

      Totally agreed, yeah. Pity though, I really want to see Tarsem Singh hit it out of the park with a big budget movie.

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