Nope, Not The Fairest
by Jansen Musico
Mirror Mirror (2012)
D: Tarsem Singh
S: Lilly Collins, Julia Roberts, Armie Hammer, Mark Povinelli, Nathan Lane
Whatever happened to Julia Roberts? Growing up in the 90s with a rabid fan of hers as a mother, I was programmed with a fondness for all the fictional characters she played. She made me wail as Shelby in Steel Magnolias, howl with the lost boys as Tinkerbelle in Hook, and wail some more as Isabel in Stepmom. Ms. Roberts is a star, but given all her horrid films of late, it seems as though her glimmer is fading.
In Mirror Mirror—the first of two Snow White flicks this year—she plays the evil queen, a sorceress who introduces herself as the true heroine of the story. She gives her own take on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale via a superb animated sequence by Ben Hibon (the same dude who produced the Deathly Hallows segment in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, Part 1.) Here she introduces Snow (Lily Collins), the pasty princess with blood red lips and thick black brows. She depicts Snow as the bane of her existence, the spoiled stepdaughter with entitlement issues. It’s an interesting thesis that the writers could have developed into an inspired piece of cinema. Mirror Mirror could have been to Snow White what Wicked was to The Wizard of Oz. Alas, the filmmakers settled for the standard.
The filmmakers take liberties with the original fairy tale, making it humorous but still narrowly close to its source material. The characters become hyperboles of themselves. The queen soaks in her vanity, the prince (Armie Hammer) puts on his charms, and the seven dwarves (specifically Mark Povinelli as the lovestruck Half Pint) play up whatever quirk it is they’re given. The only exception is Snow, who, instead of being a naive and helpless damsel, is a spirited fighter. Collins is gorgeous, and it’s hard not to find her endearing. Her Snow White’s innocence and finesse balance out the zany ensemble.
As a hodgepodge comedy, Mirror Mirror works. The film’s overall humor is mostly tame, giving it a Disney-like feel. Its narrative is splotched with several tried-and-tested gags and puns, which the cast mostly delivers on point. On the other hand, since the film is based on a well-known fairy tale and since it makes use of common comedic tropes, Mirror Mirror becomes predictable, save for a few priceless surprises and a gratuitous yet fun Bollywood number.
Roberts’s fans, myself included, might walk out the theater a wee bit disappointed. A film like Mirror Mirror would not restore the luster she once had, but at least for an hour or so, it seemed that she was enjoying channeling the queen of madness, Helena Bonham Carter.