Snow White is one of the most beloved stories in the Grimm fairy tales collection. When the most well-known adaptation of the story came to film, it represented a landmark in animation and the first full-length feature film from Walt Disney. Over the years, there have been several more adaptations, which brings us to Mirror Mirror, the first of two big Snow White films coming out this year that offer a twist on the old tale.
Starting off with a prologue, we are told that a king fell in love with and married a beautiful queen (Julia Roberts). Not long after, the king had to leave on a quest to defend his kingdom, but was never seen again, leaving the queen to rule in his stead and to look after his daughter, Snow White (Lily Collins). It is only after the king leaves that the queen shows her true cruelty. She is jealous of Snow White’s beauty and doesn’t allow her to go out. She also taxes the already destitute citizens, using the money to throw lavish parties.
Meanwhile, a prince (Armie Hammer) and his squire are on a quest to find adventure, but end up getting robbed by seven dwarves in the woods near the queen’s kingdom. When Snow White sneaks out of the castle, she happens to come across them, but they part ways soon after. However, as chance would have it, Snow White and the prince meet again at the castle and start to fall in love, something the queen finds unpleasant as she wants to marry the prince herself to obtain riches. This causes the queen to order her servant, Brighton (Nathan Lane), to take Snow White out into the woods to be killed by a monster that supposedly lives there, but Brighton, not having the heart to see it through, lets her go instead. This is where she meets the seven dwarves, but they’re not exactly the dwarves we’re familiar with from this story.
As mentioned, this take on the tale does put a bit of a twist on it, and that’s exactly what ends up making it refreshing. For instance, the seven dwarves that we remember from the old Disney film are completely different, not only in name, but in character. Here they are thieves who live in the woods after having been cast out of the village as undesirables. These characters are also the centerpiece of some fascinating fight sequences that feature the dwarves on accordion stilts.
Helping to bring this twist on the tale to life is the well-chosen cast. Roberts plays up her evil side, something we don’t ever get to see, rather well, while Collins roles along with her character’s changes quite nicely. It was good to see Collins back in a good film after having made two rather poor choices with her last two projects Priest and Abduction. Armie Hammer, of The Social Network fame, gives an interesting performance as the prince, who finds himself in a bizarre situation and likewise has to adapt to it as it proceeds. Nathan Lane even has a small role that helps bring out the comedic elements of the screenplay.
The film itself has pretty good pacing, thanks in part to the screenplay by newcomer Melissa Wallack and slightly-experienced Jason Keller. They’ve infused it with a good mixture of humor, action, and romance, making for a pleasant experience. However, the ending, while understandably predictable, could have benefitted from the removal of a completely pointless song and dance sequence that only served to stretch out the conclusion.
Mirror Mirror comes to us from director Tarsem Singh, who has only directed four films, but has already established quite a name for himself. All of his films have quite an amazing look to them. In The Cell, he dazzled audiences with his interpretation of what exploring dreams might look like. “In The Fall, his sense of style showed us how incredible the realm of the imagination is. Even in a film as bad as Immortals, the visual style stood out as being stunning.
In his latest film, the style is not as extraordinary as his others have been, but it is still beautiful to look at. Everything from the production design to the costumes and even the creature design are really well done, adding energy and style to a fresh take on an old story. Singh and his crew have quite a talent for capturing an audience’s attention with elegant detail in all of these elements.
While it may not be as memorable as his other good projects, Singh has delivered a film that should delight audiences of all ages because of the timelessness of the story and the spin the writers have put on it. Now to sit back and wait for the other Snow White film, Snow White and the Huntsman, to drop into theaters in a couple of months. It has a mostly-impressive cast lined up, so hopefully the next new take on this classic will be just as successful. 3/4 stars.
Starts today in theaters everywhere.
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