‘Mirror, Mirror’ is not the fairest of them all

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Julia Roberts and Lily Collins acting in 'Mirror, Mirror' (epk.tv)

If she wanted to stay the most beautiful woman in the land, Snow would have to do what Snow does best.

Snow would have to fall.

The evil queen and stepmother (Julia Roberts) narrates the opening of the typical cartoon reproduction of Snow White’s background story – the death of her mother, the reign of her evil stepmother the queen, and losing her father to the fate of the dangerous beast. An orchestra’s woodwinds play the sweet tones repeated by every fairytale to ever exist.

Although the surface is tacky and repetitive, “Mirror Mirror” is actually more of an artistic piece than a comedy.

I expected it to be a modern adaptation filled with slapstick humor, but Director Tarsem Singh provides an alternate fairytale based on “Snow White,” including his own personal twist.

While melodramatic decisions are carefully made to enhance the theme and message, Singh took on an almost Tim Burton-like quality, a little odd for its own good, but while Burton comes off creepy, Singh’s lighter take on direction seems more artistic.

Wide expanses of snow-capped, breathtaking, mountainous scenery include bright whites against deep and icy blues, enhancing the “Snow White” theme not only in plot, but in presentation. The stark contrast highlights the extremes presented in the film.

The Queen’s gowns are awkwardly large and excessively lavish to contrast the meager clothing of the poor, neglected and abused, by the Queen’s taxation. City members resemble the people of the Capitol in “The Hunger Games,” asserting the authority of the upper class.

The comedy of the piece lies in precise placing in the dialogue as well as the development of inter-character relationships.

Amid the traditional fairytale dialogue of “shall”s and “mustn’ts,” the writers randomly throw in common phrases like “what an idiot.”

Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) and Snow White (Lily Collins) have an awkward, but fitting connection. During a sword fight, the Prince expresses his chivalry and reluctance to fight a woman. She refuses his efforts, and resorts to “You’re a girl! I don’t fight girls!” and Snow will reply “Well, you’re a jerk!”

Blatant sarcasm mixed in with archaic diction pleasantly surprises the audience.

It’s these misplaced, unfitting common phrases that allow the film to admit to its own ridiculousness – its own personal charm.

Hammer plays a perfect typical Prince: dashing smile and confident composure. However, he has an unfiltered silly side. He was perfectly ridiculous, whimpering with puppy love, and providing extremely overdramatic responses to nearly everything.

Singh depicts Snow as a driven young woman, much like “Snow White and the Huntsman” coming out in June. Both obviously focus on the increasing power, strength, and leadership of women. It’s interesting that today’s generation readapts classic fairytales of damsels in distress to adventure stories where the princess saves the prince.

Collins plays sweet little Snow White with a powerful edge. The character of Snow is not very deep. Be sweet, be strong, prevail. She portrayed her forward message of power and poise, but it was her makeup artists that portrayed her underlying message.

Interestingly enough, they did not shape her eyebrows or give her any touch-ups other than light foundation – at first, her obviously natural look was distracting, until I realized the point was for her to be a natural beauty. Interesting moral slipped in there – natural beauty does not fit in with the film screen.

The dwarves are the real scene-stealers: Napoleon, Half Pint, Grub, Grimm, Wolf, Butcher and Chuckles. Filled with personality, together they have a lovable quality. For once, the dwarves are allowed a background and explanation. Though the dwarves are sassy, they are also thieves. Of course, Snow White’s purity saves them, true to form.

Julia Roberts was misplaced in the role of the evil queen. Roberts does so well in the sweet, introverted roles that she cannot accurately portray evil. The entire film has resultantly lighter tone to it. Although comfortable, you lose the tension between good and evil, leaving a lack of balance between protagonist and antagonist.

The Queen’s assistant, Brighton is played by Nathan Lane (the voice of Timon from “The Lion King”). Lane is the huggable, likable actor that you want to defy the evil queen, but the writers failed to focus him as a good or bad guy. They needed to portray him as the sweet, lovable one. Anything slightly malicious is too much for Lane.

Despite its cleverness and quality, the entire purpose of the mirror was unclear.

Of course, the mirror tells the Queen who is the fairest of them all, but in this adaptation, the mirror can only be reached through a portal only known to the Queen. Once entering the portal, the Queen emerges from the water and walks to a shack that holds many mirrors.

The magic mirror itself is her own reflection, has magical powers that can cast spells on people in the real world, and somehow increases the Queen’s debt. The film never explains where the mirror came from, why it is separate from the Queen’s realm, or why the entire alternate universe shatters at the end.

The CGI effects were over-the-top. From the literal gleam in the smile of the Prince to the half-man, half-serpent beast, it made fun of itself in a cheap, juvenile manner: unnecessary and actually devalued the humor.

“Mirror Mirror” is a fun, classic fairytale with modern ideals and clever sarcasm. The characters and actors are entertaining and overall enjoyable, but the true depth of the movie is carried by the stark contrasts from color, to costumes, to characterization in dialogue. It’s the artistic flare that sets it apart from the rest.

A true family movie–cute and funny, the actors did well, but I wouldn’t watch it over and over again.

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