‘Mirror, Mirror’ Review
First there were planet-killing asteroids. Then there was Truman Capote. Now it is Snow White that gets the two-movies in one treatment.
Whereas the forthcoming 'Snow White and the Huntsman' looks like it is striving for straight-up adventure fantasy in a neo-Tolkein vein, 'Mirror, Mirror' tries for family-friendly camp that's heavy on production design and sly corpsing. It almost works.
'Mirror, Mirror' follows the basic story beats you may or may not remember from Disney's 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarves' (or maybe you grew up in Mitteleuropa in the early 1800s and sat in rapture as Grandfather told you tales by the fire.) The tweaks here include an emphasis on political moves among neighboring principalities, shenanigans at the court and the Evil Queen's coterie of servants. Chief among them is Nathan Lane, whose ease with comedy of any sort is a welcome guide to help the audience to get surer footing with the half-funny/half-serious tone.
Despite the sarcasm and occasional anachronistic remark, the stakes are high. The Queen wants Snow White's blood (she is the last tie to the missing King), villagers are starving and the Seven Dwarves aren't mine-workers, they are thieves. Since director Tarsem is incapable of making anything look less than gorgeous, the vistas are all dazzling and the swashbuckling is successful. What doesn't always connect is the comedy.
Julia Roberts' accent is terrible, the Dwarves' puns are frequently atrocious and, while there are moments that do indeed work, there are just as many to inspire crickets. It's basically Johnny Depp's raised eyebrow from 'Sleepy Hollow' again and again. It gets tiresome quickly.
The mononymous Tarsem has got everyone, this writer included, convinced that one day he's going to some day serve up a masterpiece. (The first half of 'The Fall' had me rooting.) He's got a lot of tricks up his sartorially complex sleeve. It isn't just his visual panache – many of the performances have a wordly and droll whiff of, say, the best of Peter Greenaway, but it's just laid on a bit too thick. Other than Lane, a natural born vaudevillian, the others in the cast can't seem to get into the rhythm of the piece.
Armie Hammer comes close, so much so that there are times when this People Magazine friendly hunk reminded me of America's favorite oversized oaf Jason Segel. Alas, Julia Roberts, bless her heart for trying, misses the brass ring.
Yet she tries, oh, how she tries! She's rubbing bird shit in her face to keep away old age and, on paper at least, allowing herself to look like a fool. But she's still an American A-List Actress and, as such, is only allowed to go so far. Whereas a Jack Nicholson can cash in all his movie star chips and lay it all out for something like 'About Schmidt,' Roberts can only be so unpleasant without audiences turning on her. Her schtick resembles a self-deprecating appearance on 'The View.' It may not have been her intention going in, and it may not be fair, but it's how 'Mirror, Mirror' plays out – and the movie ultimately suffers because of it.
'Mirror, Mirror' certainly gets a lot of creativity points, but unfortunately never gets beyond quirky and cute.