Review: Mirror Mirror

Just as fantasy novels have become a favoured source of film adaptations of late, so too have fairy tales. Since Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs regaled audiences in 1937, the folklore-derived stories have thrived in cinema, with countless iterations following. In recent times, modernised versions have taken precedence, as evidenced in Hoodwinked! and Red Riding Hood. However, the latest effort hails back to the format’s first film successes, rebadging the Brothers Grimm classic as Mirror Mirror.

Based on a centuries-old tale, the German version attributed to the siblings has inspired a number of features. From 1902’s silent re-telling to 1933’s Betty Boop-starring effort, and 1959’s Snow White and the Three Stooges as well as 2007’s teen comedy Sydney White, the story has never been far from screens. Indeed, two film variations are due in 2012, one toying with the comedic aspects of the beloved fable, and another augmenting the heroine’s action credentials. The former is the first to arrive in theatres, under the guidance of director Tarsem Singh .

With the aesthetic flourishes of The Cell, The Fall and Immortals helmer in place, Mirror Mirror relates the efforts of the queen (Julia Roberts, Larry Crowne) to rid the kingdom of her stepdaughter (Lily Collins, Abduction). Left to care for the child after the king is lost in battle, the queen resents everything about her charge- from her blossoming beauty to her moniker. The arrival of handsome Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer, J. Edgar) only increases her disdain, particularly when his affection is directed towards the younger woman. With the help of loyal servant Brighton (Nathan Lane, The Producers), the queen attempts to regain supremacy, however Snow White proves an enterprising adversary.

The film that follows is an uneven endeavour, aiming to add extra enchantment to the classic fairy tale. Whilst the whimsical air suits Singh’s sumptuous visuals, the accompanying pantomime performances are disappointing. Roberts fails to convince as the vain villain and Hammer is reduced to painfully playing the fool, whilst Collins–surprisingly–is the film’s sweet shining light. Thankfully, entertaining efforts from the diminutive actors cast as the dwarves (including In BrugesJordan Prentice and Death to Smoochy’s Danny Woodburn) are entertaining, in the feature’s strongest source of amusement.

A sense of inventiveness also exists, though it hasn’t come from Jason Keller (Machine Gun Preacher) and Melissa Wallack’s script. Several sequences–a playful puppet scene, for instance–impress through ingenuity, but can’t mask the ill-fitting revisions to the story. Though the entire production bursts with cartoonish playfulness, it woefully underestimates humour and heart in the process. Accordingly, Mirror Mirror proves an unpersuasive adaptation of the children’s classic for anyone older than the far from discerning kiddie target market.

Mirror Mirror is released in Australia on March 29th.

Directors: Tarsem Singh

Cast: Lily Collins, Julia Roberts, Armie Hammer, Jordan Prentice, Danny Woodburn, Nathan Lane

About Sarah Ward

Sarah Ward is a freelance film critic, arts writer, and film festival organiser. She writes for artsHub, Concrete Playground, FilmInk, Metro Magazine and Screen Education, and Trespass, of course. Her written contributions have popped up at ACMI, Junkee, Lumina, Senses of Cinema, SBS Film, Televised Revolution, At The Cinema, and the World Film Locations book series. Sarah also chats about film on ABC radio, dabbles on her own site (http://www.playslashpause.com/), and tweets at @swardplay.