REVIEW: Mirror, Mirror
In December, I had the pleasure of teaching fairy tales to seniors and we explored how the basic stories have been told and retold around the world and through the ages. The core concepts remain vital and can withstand wildly varying interpretations. Before Walt Disney began cementing a single version of each tale in the global consciousness, they were adapted time and again based on the culture and need of the ages.
I was reminded of this all over again when prime time offered us both Once Upon a Time and Grimm, which were vastly different takes on some of the most beloved fairy tales. The former obviously owes a lot to its corporate masters, Walt Disney, but even so, the versions of Snow White, the Queen, Pinocchio, and so on do not identically match their animated counterparts. Grimm uses the fairy tales as a launching point and goes in a wildly different direction.
Similarly, there are the competing Snow White epics that were released this year. The clear winner was the box office smash Snow White and the Huntsman, which is already spawning a sequel despite having some of the worst storytelling gaps I’ve seen in ages. At the other end of the spectrum was Mirror Mirror, which opened first and flopped badly despite having Julia Roberts as the Queen. Now out on DVD from 20th Century Home Entertainment, Mirror Mirror suffers poorly in comparison with its competitor and worse, with its own trailers.
The trailers showed us a slyly funny interpretation of the classic story and promised more but what we got was something silly and over the top and not especially clever. Tarsem Singh once more shows us, as he did in Immortals, that story is secondary to imagery. Marc Klein and Jason Keller tell a story that makes somewhat more sense than The Huntsman but they fail to make any of the characters particularly memorable nor does Singh elicit interesting performances allowing the cast to rise above the material.
Instead, a particularly strong cast is wasted looking fabulous in utterly absurd costuming. Roberts flounces about, vain and petty, but without real motivation. Lily Collins is a prettier Snow than Kristin Stewart and at least gets to train before fighting but has so little of note to do. Nathan Lane heads a supporting cast that is entirely flat and unoriginal. Even the seven dwarves are stereotypical and not especially funny. Having Lord Stark, that is Sean Bean, play the King in a wintry land invites poor comparisons with A Game of Thrones.
The movie lies flat and remains not particularly entertaining nor does it surprise us even once. And that’s a shame since the story could be played nicely for laughs, poking some gentle fun at the many interpretations or psychological motivations but it attempts nothing so interesting. There’s no motivation for the Queen’s cruel rule or explanation offered as the nature of the magic mirror and her more staid persona within the glass.
On the other hand, the Blu-ray edition looks particularly nice, so the costuming and sets look swell. It’s great to watch at home along with excellent sound.
The disc comes with a bunch of perfunctory extras such as the five deleted scenes which are not missed, including the alternate opening. Looking through the Mirror (12:58) tries to make you believe the cast and crew really think they’re making a good film. The end credits are accompanied with an over-the-top Bollywood production number and I Believe I Can Dance (11:01) is an overlong look at how choreographer Paul Becker taught Collins, Mare Winning ham, Michael Lerner, and others to dance. The silliest bonus is Prince and Puppies (1:59) as real puppies review Armie Hammer’s romantic side. The most interesting featurette is Mirror, Mirror Storybook, a remote-controlled “storybook” version of the film.
Given the potential in the cast and the source material, and knowing there was a competing version also in production, you would have thought Singh would have risen to the occasion, making this film all the more disappointing.