Directed by Tarsem Singh
Written by Jason Keller and Melisa Wallack; Based on the story by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
Starring Julia Roberts, Lily Collins, Armie Hammer, and Nathan Lane
Running Time of 106 Minutes
The adaptation or “re-imagining” of popular stories of yore has become quite prevalent these days, but what makes Mirror Mirror stand out is its light, almost joyous tone. This is not to say that there is something inherently wrong with the dark, gritty adaptations that have become popular, but rather that it is a nice change of pace to see something that relishes in optimism and colorful joy. Directed by Tarsem, a man who excels at creating impressive visual palettes, Mirror Mirror tells the classic story of Snow White and the evil queen with a few fun twists and a little too much silliness for its own good.
What almost instantly stands out about the film are the costumes. Designed by the late Eiko Ishioka, they are opulent and complex works of art that go a long way to establish this vivid fantasy world. Strangely, however, the rest of the film’s design feels somewhat facile. Though the production design of the castle and the town is strong, the forest in which much of the film takes place has a very plasticy quality that I found off putting. As Tarsem’s camera swooped around this fairly insular fantasy world, I couldn’t help but feel that it was just a little bit too fake. Regardless, the film has a strong visual tone that is earmarked by an impressive animated opening sequence and particularly unique CG character design for the film’s final villain. Alan Menken, no stranger to this type of story, has composed a modest and fitting score that finishes with a terrific original song, “I Believe.”
The film wears its PG rating on its sleeve, and this was clearly designed with children in mind. The script by Jason Keller and Melisa Wallack takes its fair share of liberties with the classic Grimm fairy tale, toning down the darker themes and focusing more on the humor and comedy of the scenario. In fact, at many points the film felt like an old fashioned romantic comedy that favored witty banter and humorous exchanges. Some jokes are decidedly more adult in conception, but the film is certainly designed for all ages. What makes these silly and fast paced jokes work are the cast, in particular the charismatic and dashing Armie Hammer who proves to be a deft comedian, unafraid to look completely and utterly silly. It is clear that Armie has what it takes to be a legitimate movie star and this is a fine stepping point along the way. As the evil queen and Snow White, Julia Roberts and Lily Collins (daughter of Phil) are both fine, but neither brings anything particularly noteworthy to their roles. Nathan Lane proves to be typically humorous and boisterous as the queen’s right hand man. The seven dwarves prove to be an altogether different beast, almost existing inside their own film. Moments with these characters range from incredibly sweet to incredibly silly, and they too get to join in on the action. Unfortunately they also have some jokes that are a bit too cringe-worthy or one-note for my taste.
The film’s smartest decision is to give Snow White a strong arc. Though Collins is merely adequate in the role, Snow’s evolution from waif trapped in the castle to a legitimate fighter and a strong woman is the film’s soul. Unfortunately the film has an embarrassing training montage with Snow and the dwarves that is a bit too obvious and derivative and seems out of place. That Snow fights and stands up for herself and her kingdom gives the film a strong core that balances fairly nicely with the fantasy silliness. Thought a bit too fake and juvenile at times, the film still makes for a pleasant and witty diversion with a great star turn for Armie Hammer. This is a far cry from the disaster the poor trailers pointed at.