Not the fairest of them all
Fairytales are all the rage. Over the next year or so, big screen adaptations of classics like “Hansel and Gretel,” “Jack and the Beanstalk,” and “Sleeping Beauty,” will arrive in theaters. Up first are two versions of the Snow White story, a somewhat serious version starring “Twilight’s” Kristen Stewart (coming June 1st) and the just-arrived, supposedly comedic adaptation “Mirror, Mirror.”
“Supposedly” is the right term because despite an incredibly impressive and lavish production with dazzling set pieces, humor and wit are nearly invisible. The first 30 minutes are particularly insufferable, but “Mirror, Mirror” is helped tremendously by seven scene-stealing vertically challenged characters that bring some much needed fun to the proceedings.
The against-type casting of star Julia Roberts as the loathsome Queen seems immediately to be a mistake, for the talented actress can’t muster the venom or vigor the role seems to require. She lords over her kingdom in typically self-absorbed fashion and keeps her stepdaughter Snow White (Lily Collins, heavily-eyebrowed daughter of musician Phil) on a short leash. Now 18, the naïve princess manages to escape the confines of the castle for the first time, and upon seeing the poverty of the villagers, is shocked and dismayed. When the evil Queen’s murderous strategy goes awry, Snow is adopted by a group of diminutive exiles who now roam the forest as ambushing bandits. The film’s best scenes feature these lively dwarves with non-Disney owned character names like Butcher, Wolf, Chuckles, and Half-Pint. Well, you get the picture.
India-born director Tarsem Singh (“The Fall,” “The Cell”) once again demonstrates his amazing visual style, but he possesses no knack for cohesive or imaginative storytelling. He’s aided greatly by the late costume designer Eiko Ishioka, whose final work—which includes a hilariously fanciful animal-themed masked ball—is simply stunning.
Unfortunately, the filmmakers chose writers whose primary resume involved “Machine Gun Preacher,” and they bring little humor to the well-known Grimm brothers’ original material. If a screenplay can’t allow the reliable Nathan Lane to even improvise a few laughs, something is dreadfully wrong.
What “Mirror, Mirror” could have used is a few big musical numbers. Alas, that is saved for a Bollywood-type ending credits megamix. Oscar icon and “Mirror” musical director Alan Menken inexcusably isn’t given the opportunity to pen a couple of production numbers.
Nearly everything in “Mirror, Mirror” feels manufactured and artificial. There are exactly seven reasons to tolerate the beautiful artifice on display, but those are—ahem—little reasons, to be sure.
Rated PG for some mild fantasy action and rude humor.