'Mirror Mirror': Snow White tale is fair (not fairest), critics say
The first of two Snow White films this year, "Mirror Mirror" outfits the classic fairy tale with some humorous elements (Julia Roberts as a catty evil queen), some modern updates (Lily Collins' Snow White wields her own sword) and some visual flair courtesy of director Tarsem Singh ("The Cell," "Immortals"). Many movie critics are finding the film to be, well, fair.
In a positive review for The Times, Sheri Linden calls "Mirror Mirror" a "visually inventive interpretation" of the familiar fairy tale that manages to avoid "shortchanging the requisite froufrou or sugarcoating the story's dark Oedipal heart." Roberts pulls off "an exceptionally entertaining evil monarch" and leads a game cast, including Collins, "a convincing foil," and Armie Hammer ("J. Edgar"), who lets "his princely flag fly." Linden adds that director Singh's "singular knack for spectacle" is mostly put to good use and owes much to "Tom Foden's lush and witty production design and the splendid costumes by Eiko Ishioka."
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times similarly declares "Mirror Mirror" "a sumptuous fantasy for the eyes," with the caveat that it's also "a pinball game for the mind, as story elements collide and roll around bumping into each other." Beyond the impressive visuals and a show-stealing turn by Roberts, Ebert says there's not much depth: "The dialogue is rather flat, the movie sort of boring, and there's not much energy in the two places it should really be felt: Between the Queen and Snow White, and between Snow and the Prince."
NPR's Linda Holmes finds the film to be "a welcome and entertaining surprise: a gorgeous, frothy comedy that … operates both as a fairy tale movie and as a sendup of same." The film's strength is not so much in the story, Holmes says — "what works is the execution." The script (by Marc Klein and Jason Keller) is "slyly affectionate," Hammer is appropriately charming as the prince, "and Collins does fine with the less interesting role of a beautiful princess who does indeed take much more control over her own story than do traditionally distressed damsels."
For the New York Times' Manohla Dargis, "Mirror Mirror" is a case of style over substance. She writes, "While Mr. Singh knows how to make performers and sets look good, he has trouble putting them into vibrant, kinetic, meaningful play, which effectively means that he’s a better window dresser than a movie director." As a result, the performances are mostly one-dimensional, with the exception of Nathan Lane, who plays a royal yes-man and "is the only performer who sounds comfortable delivering [the] often intentionally anachronistic dialogue."
In the San Francisco Chronicle, Mick LaSalle says "Mirror Mirror" is merely "a new version of 'Snow White,' with some stuff changed." The changes, however, "don't necessarily improve on the material, and they're not part of some interesting reconception." The only real point of the film, LaSalle says, seems to be answering the question, "What if the Evil Queen were Julia Roberts?" Fortunately, at least, the answer is that "she would be self-assured and arch and more funny than scary. She would be the best thing about the picture."
It will take more than mixed reviews to keep Snow White down, though. The character will return to the silver screen June 1 with the release of "Snow White and the Huntsman," starring Kristen Stewart as Snow White and Charlize Theron as the evil queen.
— Oliver Gettell
Photo: Lily Collins in "Mirror Mirror." Credit: Jan Thijs / Universal Pictures.