"Mirror Mirror" means a lot to producer/distributor Relativity Media, which needs hits in order to survive. That's why the $60-million PG flick is aimed so squarely at a mainstream family audience. Visually, it looks like a movie directed by Tarsem Singh ("The Immortals"), but it doesn't feel like one. The movie will play young. Very young.
For one thing, Singh is relying on an all-too familiar Grimm fairy tale (reworked by Marc Klein and Jason Keller), which is at best fitfully amusing, thanks to Julia Roberts (who literally has bee-sting lips), Nathan Lane and the Seven Dwarfs, and most of the time, makes you wish you were watching "Tangled" instead. This princess stuff is Disney turf. No one does it better.
While the producers did hire Disney composer Alan Menken to write the score, it's uninspired and treacly. This is yet another case where live actors mixed with clever VFX (the dwarves run, leap and fly on cool accordion stilts) don't come close to giving us that soaring Disney magic. Some of the animation fakery (the gorgeous opening intro, the evil Queen's ageless mirror) works better than the rest of the movie, which just feels fake. "Mirror Mirror" has no new take on this story (didn't the Red Queen already play live chess in "Alice in Wonderland"?), and veers from irritating to dull.
Lily Collins' Snow White is a doltish drip; we don't believe that Armie Hammer's handsome buffoon of a Prince Charming is in love with her (remarkably, Hammer survives this movie), nor the Seven Dwarfs for that matter. The Queen's feelings toward her step-daughter almost make sense. Why is the gang of seven thieves teaching her to fight and rob? So she can be slightly more acceptable to a modern audience? In one scene she clashes swords, pitifully, with the Prince. It's unbelievable. (The Playlist interviewed Collins and Hammer here.)
The tone veers all over the place. The best thing in the movie is the Bollywood closing number, which holds a clue to the kind of daring the movie lacks. Singh has plans to take a very different direction on his next, "Eye In the Sky." Who can blame him? While the often incoherent filmmaker has always favored style over content in the past, he was never this insipid.
A smattering of reviews is below.
"'Mirror Mirror' is a sumptuous fantasy for the eyes and a pinball game for the mind, as story elements collide and roll around bumping into each other,..It's almost uncanny in some scenes here, how Lily Collins (daughter of Phil Collins) looks like Audrey Hepburn,..She's all sweet, all innocent, but Julia Roberts steals the show with her imperious and autocratic Queen. All of this is in place and looks great, but the dialogue is rather flat, the movie sort of boring, and there's not much energy in the two places it should really be felt: Between the Queen and Snow White, and between Snow and the Prince. The story is a listless tale that moves at a stately pace through settings that could have supported fireworks."
"Poised between revisionist fairy tale and smirking sendup, this gaudy, over-frosted cream puff of a movie half-heartedly positions its famous heroine as a dagger-wielding proto-feminist, yet ultimately suffers the same fatal flaw as Julia Roberts' evil queen: It doesn't really care about anything except how pretty it looks."
"Julia Roberts chews up the scenery and spits it back out again with great brio in her first truly villainous role as the evil Queen in 'Mirror Mirror.' And oh, what scenery it is,..Basically, the scenery IS the movie,..Collins has a lovely screen presence — she's got this young Audrey Hepburn thing going — but she lacks a certain oomph, even after her character has learned to fight and supposedly found her inner strength. Roberts rules her at every turn, even when she flashes that iconic smile in cruel fashion. She seems to be reveling in playing a role that's such a departure; that sense of joy only sporadically finds its way to the rest of the film."
"If only they'd put more 'Heigh Ho' into the script, found more funny things for Nathan Lane (the queen's aide) to say and do. If only Roberts had had the guts to play mean (This is an image-obsessed movie star pulling her punches.). If only they'd found a Snow White with some spark to her. 'Mirror Mirror' leaves us with those 'if onlys,' and reminds us that the original incantation missed the big point. Casting 'the fairest of them all' can't save you from a heroine as dull as her character's name."
"Somewhere between the pitch meeting and the movie's opening, this sadly earthbound fairy tale lost its happy ending. 'Mirror Mirror' is minor minor,..Part of 'Mirror’'s problem is that the screenplay, credited to two writers and with a third getting a story credit, is all over the place. At times, it seems that the movie is a satire about anxiety over aging, as the Queen frets over who’s the fairest in the land. But it also hints at a political agenda, as when the villagers are told that the onerous taxes collected by the Queen are being used to keep them safe, and at being about feminism, as when Snow White and the Prince battle for the upper hand while bickering or crossing swords."