16 September 2012 | secondtake
Been there done that--except for wonderful sarcastic Julia Roberts scenes!!
Mirror Mirror (2012)
Make no doubt about it, Julia Roberts earns her top billing here. She is a perfectly sassy, sarcastic, blithely harsh wicked witch and queen in this retelling of the Snow White story. But also be sure to know this isn't an imaginative retelling. It is the same story with tweaks and interpretations. For all the fast edits (it's snappy on the surface) the movie is surprisingly slow.
And yet there are these hilarious punctuations. Snow White herself is a spry and charming secondary character, played with too much restraint by Lily Collins. I'm going to guess it's the director who holds her back, as if the girlish attraction needs a womanly restraint--all too caricatured a notion of femininity for me, or for a lively film. Remember that the original fairy tale is a cutting investigation, without too much moralizing, into the problems of women aging and men being mindless suckers for the young. That doesn't get far with this film, but it's in the meat of it, especially at the end when Roberts goes through the necessary aging before the camera.
I had the weird luck of seeing both Snow White films this year (I'm no a Snow White fan, but tagged along twice). And the other film, "Snow White and the Huntsman," is a much more ponderous affair. It has higher production values than "Mirror Mirror" but it gets weighted down with archetypes that have no depth, and with action that has little really impact. And special effects, which "Mirror Mirror" mostly avoids. To its credit. (And as an aside, I bizarrely also saw the first episode in "Once Upon a Time," which is a television series about fairy tale characters, and which begins with yet another imagining of Snow White. Honestly, the t.v. version is the most inventive, but it's also stretched thin with some mediocre acting and awkward writing.)
These diversions matter, really, because the key to "Mirror Mirror" is the tale, the one we all love most from Walt Disney's version. To depart from the classic moments is to be both adventurous (good) and critically exacting (you can't screw it up). This film decides to mostly follow the old tale. The seven dwarfs have new names (the famous names were a Disney touch that the producers had the rights to) but they are the same quirky lovable bunch. And the finale is roughly what you'd expect. Which leads a viewer to wonder why exactly they are watching this new version? Shouldn't it go somewhere new or have something fresh to offer?
The one thing it does have is Julia Roberts, who makes her scenes (quite a few of them) really fun, smart, and even sizzling. If you love her you'll love at least that much. Otherwise, unless you are quite young and don't know about Snow White, or you were perhaps raised in another culture and are curious about her (as is the case with the director, Tarsem Singh) be warned. You've been here before.
Oh, and honestly, the most original part of the film? The ending credits--pure Bollywood dancing and singing. A little off key at times, but funny and fun.