The reimagining of classic fairy tales seems to be the new thing to do in Hollywood today. With the big box office numbers that Alice in Wonderland pulled in 2010 and the rising popularity of television shows like Grimm and Once Upon a Time, producers seem to have realized that putting out modernized versions of these old stories can be very financially viable. So viable, in fact, that there is not just one, but two Snow White films coming out this year. Mirror Mirror, the subject of this week’s review, is the decidedly more child friendly and fairy tale-ish of the two. The other, Snow White and the Huntsman, is much more in the vein of the aforementioned Alice in Wonderland with its darker tone and aim at adult demographics. The two will undoubtedly be compared upon the release of Snow White and the Huntsman, due out this June, but for now, Mirror Mirror is the only Snow White film to see, and may enjoy a solid run at the box office because of it.
(Warning: Spoilers ahead!)
The film starts out with a montage sequence narrated by the Evil Queen about the birth of the princess Snow White, the subsequent death of her mother, the prosperous years between then, and her father’s mysterious disappearance in the woods shortly after marrying the Evil Queen. It is quickly established that the Evil Queen has bankrupted the kingdom by spending its money to satisfy her vanity. Thus, it is fortunate that Prince Alcott shows up looking for adventure. After a chance meeting with Snow White while she was sneaking out to observe the state of the outlying village, the Prince presents himself to the Queen and her court. The Queen immediately begins hatching a plan to get the Prince to marry her and thus solve her financial problems, but unbeknownst to her, sparks had flown between Snow White and the Prince during their chance encounter.
Meanwhile, Snow White is dismayed by the poor state of affairs of the village and returns to the castle to try and convince the Prince to help her stop the Queen from destroying the kingdom. The Queen is enraged by the flirtatious interaction between the Prince and Snow White during a ball she throws in his honor, and she orders her servant to take her to the woods and kill her. The servant shows mercy to the young princess and allows her to escape; she then winds up unconscious at the door of the thieving dwarves of the forest. The dwarves are cautious of her at first, but quickly warm up to her and give her the skills she needs to stop the Queen. In return, Snow White makes the dwarves heroes in the eyes of the village that had previously treated them as outcasts. Snow White and the dwarves then hatch a plan to save the Prince—who is under the Queen’s love potion—and stop the Queen from doing anything else to undermine the kingdom Snow White and the King had loved so much.
Mirror Mirror is an undeniably silly film. However, I was surprised that it wasn’t quite as childish as it could have been. Unfortunately, it is not adult enough to appeal to anyone looking for some substance from their theater-going experience. A lot of kids were at the theater when I went to see this film, and they appreciated the film’s simple humor and light tone. The film’s humor doesn’t overstay its welcome, except for the running gag of one of the dwarves having a crush on Snow White. The script is very basic, definitely designed to appeal to a younger audience with its very easy to understand plot and fairly one-dimensional characters who serve more as archetypes. Again though, this is mainly due to the fact that this adaptation adheres well to the light airiness of its Disney cousin.
What absolutely cannot be denied about Mirror Mirror, however, is how absolutely gorgeous it is. The entire production is incredibly beautiful, from the sets to the excellent costume design to the clean, razor sharp cinematography. This can likely be attributed to director Tarsem Singh, whose singular genius at creating visually sumptuous films is one of his greatest assets. His films may be fairly disposable in terms of storytelling, but they remain feasts for the eyes and are best seen on large theater screens. One scene in particular, the introductory montage detailing Snow White’s early life, was remarkably beautiful and hearkened to the similarly executed “Tale of the Three Brothers” scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1. The film’s score matched the light tone of the rest of the film and was very serviceable, however it wasn’t nuanced enough to gain any particular interest from me.
Julia Roberts seemed to have been having a lot of fun in her role as the Queen, and so I found her performance enjoyable. The dwarves also executed very fun performances, and each of the actors was able to bring some distinction and personality to his character. Armie Hammer, who played Prince Alcott, however, I found incredibly grating after a short time. He definitely had his heart in it, and there was nothing technically wrong with his performance, but it came off as overdone and just annoying in a way that Julia Roberts’ did not. Meanwhile, Lily Collins grew on me over the course of the film’s running time as Snow White. She did well enough as a relative newcomer to have me intrigued about how she will do as main protagonist Clary Fray in the upcoming film adaptation of The Mortal Instruments.
Frankly, watching Mirror Mirror only made me really, really want to watch Snow White and the Huntsman, which looks infinitely better. However, Mirror Mirror still proved to be a pretty fun time with friends, and the beauty of the production justified a fairly large chunk of the ticket price by itself. I do have a feeling, though, that Snow White and the Huntsman will prove to be the more successful Snow White adaptation with the audiences, critics, and box office number crunchers. Still, if you’re looking for something simple to unwind to, but still very pretty to look at, Mirror Mirror provides a decent level of escapism.