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April 7, 2012


Capsule Movie Review – Mirror Mirror (2012)


Director Tarsem’s Mirror Mirror is a family friendly re-telling of the Snow White fairytale, revamped for contemporary tastes and with the emphasis on comedy. Snow White (Lily Collins)- her friends call her Snow- is still sweet and lovely, but doesn’t go to sleep. In fact, her concern for her impoverished subjects motivates her to join the dwarves’ band of highwaymen. Yes I said highwaymen: formerly respectable townsfolk, they were banished by edict of the evil queen and took up residence in a mammoth tree stump in the perpetually snow-covered beech forest outside the castle. Still handsome and charming, Snow’s prince (Armie Hammer) is now the one to fall under an enchantment, and like pretty much all the male characters, he has his ridiculous moments. The queen (Julia Roberts) still talks to her mirror and takes vanity to murderous extremes. With a story that’s more fairy tale mash-up and mass market princess fantasy than timeless classic, Mirror Mirror never quite clicks to make movie magic. Childish humor and sexually suggestive one-liners jostle uneasily on the margins (thankfully, there’s not too much of either) and Roberts can’t consistently pull off the evil-funny admixture. However, warts and all it’s quite an enjoyable film and a strong recommendation for children. The heroine is charming and has many admirable qualities; it’s filled with good lessons like not judging people by appearance and standing up for what’s right; and there’s lots of fun acrobatics and sword fighting but no real violence. And it’s as pretty as a picture. Imagination ran riot in creating the colorful fairy tale costumes and the uncluttered sets are the delightful illustrations of a children’s storybook.

2 1/2 stars

One thing I liked and one thing I didn’t like: Instead of the overdone living chess game we got living Battleship, complete with funny battleship hats. I kind of hated the animated prologue.

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Ken
    Apr 8 2012

    I was pretty much in a “meh” mode once I heard about this movie. There just wasn’t anything mentioned that grabbed me. Now I know my gut reaction was right.

  2. Miriam
    Apr 8 2012

    There were some charming moments and I, too, thought the costumes and sets were particularly well done. The Grimm tales have real fears and terrors at their heart, so when that element is largely stripped out what’s left feels unbalanced. A fairy tale can be funny, but sarcasm and snarky remarks just don’t mix with the elements that make us love the stories.

    My standard for the modern fairy tale remains Penelope.

  3. elizabeth
    Apr 8 2012

    I don’t agree with you on the animated prologue. That was the most inventive and stunning part of the movie. the rest was just aweful. I loved the visual part of Tarsem’s The Fall, but his storytelling ability is just horrendous, like in this movie.

  4. Apr 8 2012

    What I love about The Fall’s storytelling is that it utilizes the concept of a grown man that’s convincing a little girl that she should help me get better by helping her first: he tells her a fairytale, she helps him. But he’s trying to commit suicide and the longer he continues to live the darker his story gets. And when he doesn’t get what he wants, he kills off the characters just to upset the little girl. That’s a Grimm style storytelling method.

    But if you want an example of expert screenwriting in a Tarsem film you watch “The Cell” (written by Mark Protosevich). :O)

  5. Aaron
    Apr 8 2012

    I loved “The Fall!”

  6. Apr 8 2012


  7. Apr 9 2012

    Thanks for the comments all!

    @Ken: I don’t want to be too hard on the movie because it is fun while you’re watching, but all in all it’s more a movie to take the kids to than to take yourself to.

    @Miriam: Yes, yes and YES to “Penelope”.

    @elizabeth: I though the animation bordered on ugly but that’s a matter of taste (obviously the filmmakers didn’t have that reaction either). However, the reason I called it out was the text of the queen’s narration. Lines like “as an aside, they called her ‘Snow White’ because that was the most pretentious name they could think of”- not an exact quote but close, and “pretentious” IS an exact quote- exemplify the script’s biggest failing, its tendency to be too clever for its own good.

    @Nir/Aaron: “The Fall” is a wonderful, wonderful movie. My DVD post doesn’t do it justice but says more of what I love about it than I have room for in a comment. :-)

  8. Apr 9 2012

    @all/a general aside: “The Fall” is easily and by far Tarsem’s best film (“Mirror Mirror” is his fourth). It’s also the only one he has screenwriter credit for. In his case I’ll reverse my usual admonition to director-writers and hope that he writes more of his own films in the future.

    “Mirror Mirror” has two credited screenwriters (neither of them Tarsem) and a story credit to Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, which is just funny in itself (or maybe that’s just me).