Seen: On my laptop, streamed from netflix instant.
The other day I was exhausted and felt like lying in bed with a movie on, intending to fall asleep eventually. Wouldn’t you know I put on Mirror Mirror on a whim and ended up watching the whole thing, curled up in bed. This re-imagining of the Snow White tale begins with the wicked Queen (Julia Roberts) describing how she took over a magical kingdom by bewitching the king, causing his death, and essentially placing his daughter, Snow White (Lily Collins), under house/castle arrest. She’s obsessed with beauty and glamor and wealth, and bleeds the people dry with her tax demands under the cover of paying for protection against some mysterious beast. After she turns 18 the timid Snow finally gains some backbone and plots to reclaim her kingdom with the help of a confused prince (Arnie Hammer) and a band of valiant dwarf bandits. The queen is pretty set on murdering Snow through various magical attacks, though, so Snow will have to acquire some self-defense skills through a TRAINING MONTAGE. Oh yeah.
Let me state for the record that the regular story of Snow White is pretty sucky, mostly boring and maudlin and sexist, so I’m totally down with updates of it, and Mirror Mirror does a decent job of it. The sarcastic humor, exaggerated visuals (Helloooo Tarsem!), and, most importantly, focus on the main character’s development as a multifaceted human woman instead of a bland, beautiful damsel in distress, are all welcome cinematic elements. I’m not really into Julia Roberts but she is gleefully malicious and sardonically funny as the wicked queen, while gliding about in hilariously huge ball gowns. She’s evil but also kind of incompetent, and she’s less a threat and more tangible motivation for Snow to stand up for herself. Collins is a little too subdued in her performance, I think, but for the most part I liked her, and I liked how her character was handled. Young and naive but also brave, stubborn, and a surprisingly good fencer. The dwarf characters steal the show, as goofy as they are badass, and I dug their action scenes on accordion stilts.
As a whole the film is a bit slow but I must say between the clever script and drop-dead visuals I was entertained the whole time. I mean, it’s Tarsem Singh, I knew it would be pretty, and man is it pretty. Eiko Ishioka’s fanciful, colorful costumes are icing on an already delicately baked cake. Everything is just sugary and colorful and elaborate, and while the CG landscapes aren’t always the best the sets are truly elegant. And Arnie Hammer’s multiple bouts of shirtlessness aren’t anything to complain about, either. All in all a fun, sweet film that manages to subvert the typically passive Snow White characterization while still keeping the atmosphere light, funny, and adventurous. There’s a nice Bollywood-style dance number at the end, too, as I am never one to scoff at unexpected musical numbers cropping up in movies.
Pair This Movie With: I think its tone, sourcing, and general fantasy-satire thing are in line with Enchanted, which I enjoy a whole lot.