After the mysterious disappearance of the King (Sean Bean) the evil Queen (Julia Roberts) keeps her step-daughter Snow White (Lily Collins) locked up in the castle and
steals control of the kingdom. When Snow White runs off and meets a band of outlaws, a chain of events is set in train leading to her meeting the Prince of Valencia (Armie Hammer). He in turn is brought before the Queen, who schemes to marry him for his money, having bankrupted her own realm. To make sure Snow White doesn't represent a threat to her vanity - as her magic mirror warns - she issues orders to have Snow White killed.
Review by Louise Keller:
Black magic, renegade dwarves, a strawberry kiss and Julia Roberts as the beauty-obsessed wicked queen are some of the highlights of this recreation of the age-old tale of Snow White, whose cynical, tongue-in-cheek tone nicely counters its themes of goodness and true love. Elevated by its spectacular production design and lavish costumes, the film is as funny as it is charming, beckoning us into an enticing, lavish reality with picture-book castle, snowy wonderland and dirty tricks puppeteered from the Bora Bora like setting beyond the shimmer of the mirror, where the Queen's wrinkle-free reflection resides.
The film's funniest moment arrives when a love potion goes wrong and handsome Armie Hammer as the dashing Prince Charming goes ape for the Queen (or should I say canine), behaving like a lovesick puppy and licking his mistress in loyal devotion. Hammer makes a fist of his role as the romantic lead with a self-deprecating comical touch; the film's humour is often at his expense, be it when captured by the seven dwarves, towering above him on black accordion stilts or as the Queen, glamorously draped in gold, lustfully toys with him.
Lily Collins brings thick, dark eyebrows back into vogue and is lovely as Snow White, the emotionally crushed Princess who finds her feisty side and discovers true love in the process. In a well managed manoeuvre, there's an appealing balance of give and take as Snow White persuades the thieving dwarves to change their ways, while they teach her to believe in herself and fight for what is right (after deciding she's a keeper). Nathan Lane as the Queen's subservient right hand has to endure the humiliation of being turned into a cockroach, learning that there's a price to pay for everything.
It might be an old tale (and was even when Disney's original was created in 1937), but there's nothing stale in this sophisticated update that sparkles with star power, fun and humour. Good may still triumph over evil and true love's kiss is as sweet as honey but director Tarsem Singh and his team of writers Melissa Wallack, Jason Keller get the tone just right and seduce us in the process.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Striving to present the Snow White fairy tale for a sophisticated modern audience, the filmmakers have changed some of the key elements of the story including the ending, and imbued it with a few modern sensibilities. These elements jostle about in a clunky dance with the traditional elements until they not so much update as destabilise the entire story. It's neither scary nor hilarious, neither real nor surreal; it just doesn't trust the material.
Neither fish nor fowl, the film tries to straddle the world of the fairy story and the real world from a modern perspective. It's not what is done to the Grimm brothers' work but how that is the problem. Lacking respect for the material, the writers attempt a combination of farce and political correctness to make it somehow more relevant. It doesn't work.
Julia Roberts' Queen is a modern character in every sense, a domineering, shallow and self serving woman who uses her authority like a sledge hammer. She is vain of course, but we are never given the satisfaction of her shock at being told by her mirror that she is not the fairest in the land. If you're going to mess with fairy tales of such familiarity you'd better not drop the essential ingredients. Like wise the apple, but I won't go into that.
Lily Collins is a sweet Snow White, with eyebrows Groucho Marx would die for, but her feistiness and contempo sensibilities take away from the innocence her character must convey in every ounce of her body.
Armie Hammer does modern goofy handsome Prince well enough, and it's not his fault that he has to become a shirtless toy boy figure as part of the deal.
The seven dwarves are entertaining and endearing, although nothing like the sweet old grumpy and sleepy things we love to hug.
There are some excellent things, too: the production design is fabulous, with the kind of outré touches that we see in the ruling class of The Hunger Games. Extraordinary sets, hilariously inventive expansion stilts for the dwarfs and wonderful scenes of the royal court make the film's mise en scene a joy. If only the filmmakers had devoted as much attention to wit, tone and substance ... this is one of the great enduring fairy tales of all time, dealing with the evils of hubris, vanity, greed and selfishness, against the power of courage, justice and love. What material!
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MIRROR MIRROR (PG)
CAST: Lily Collins, Julia Roberts, Armie Hammer, Sean Bean, Nathan Lane, Mare Winningham, Michael Lerner, Jordan Prentice, Mark Povinelli, Joe Gnoffo, Danny Woodburn, Sebastian Saraceno, Martin Klebba, Ronald Lee Clark
PRODUCER: Bernie Goldman, Ryan Kavanaugh, Brett Ratner, Nico Soultanakis
DIRECTOR: Tarsem Singh
SCRIPT: Melissa Wallack, Jason Keller (original story by Brothers Grimm)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Brendan Galvin
EDITOR: Robert Duffy, Nick Moore
MUSIC: Alan Menken
RUNNING TIME: 106 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 29, 2012
RIVERSIDE SNEAK PEEK PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 4 consecutive Tuesdays - March 10, 17, 24, 31, 2015 - at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.