Home Video Hovel- Mirror Mirror, by West Anthony
I’ll never know what possesses Hollywood studios to simultaneously pursue two versions of the same story, but with Snow White And The Huntsman still in theaters, now’s your chance to make a more direct comparison between that film and Mirror Mirror, a telling of the Snow White tale released earlier this year. I haven’t seen Snow White And The Huntsman– who needs Kristen Stewart when there’s Valium practically falling out of the trees?- but Mirror Mirror, directed by the lush visual stylist Tarsem Singh Dhandwar (formerly Tarsem Singh, more formerly plain old Tarsem), is a just-OK picture whose look is undermined by a so-so screenplay.
Julia Roberts stars as what may be the most unconvincing queen in film history. Queen Gertrude dwells in a luxurious castle perched on a visually arresting but architecturally unsound precipice, while her subjugated people live in miserable poverty in a lousy village that is apparently beyond the reach of the Occupy movement. The Queen’s sole mortal enemy is, of course, Snow White. Our heroine is portrayed by Lily Collins, who is the daughter of one famous drummer (Phil Collins of Genesis) while her enormous eyebrows resemble those of another famous drummer (Bill Berry of R.E.M.); Snow White is held captive in the castle until the expedient moment in which she abruptly decides to go outside, whereupon she discovers the Queen’s total oppression of the kingdom’s people. So it’s to be class warfare, and our feckless protagonist is naturally assisted by seven dwarves, who are loaded with feck. (Due to legal issues with a large corporate entity whose name rhymes with Bizney, these dwarves don’t have the names you might naturally assume they should have. But what’s in a name, apart from a few consonants? And maybe a vowel or two, if you’re lucky?) These dwarves aren’t working in a mine where a million diamonds shine — no, they’re brigands and thieves, like Robin Hood’s miniature merry men… the better to wage class warfare, my dear.
There’s also a handsome prince, played here by Armie Hammer, who really should have checked with his agent. Whilst the Queen is a fairly juicy role undone only by the stellar acting inability of Julia Roberts, the prince is a role that starts out all swashbuckly before he has to act like a dog. You heard me. Thus a pretty good showcase for a dashing young man of adventure becomes a stupid joke in the third act, which only serves to make Hammer look like he’d been struck by… well, a hammer. Miss Collins is herself kind of “just there” in a part that requires a little more fire than she is able to bring; in fact, all of the traditionally-sized actors fail to acquit themselves admirably (Nathan Lane doing his patented Nathan Lane Schtick is wearing especially thin). The most engaging performances come from the dwarves, notably Mark Povinelli as Half-Pint — I told you they didn’t have the same names — who has some very funny moments as well as a genuinely touching scene that delivers the goods for those viewers in need of a bit of tearjerking. Attention casting agents looking for another smallish actor to pick up the slack now that Peter Dinklage is so busy with Game Of Thrones: here’s your new go-to guy.
The biggest problem with the screenplay is its lack of sincerity. Now, perhaps some readers may consider it a pot/kettle deal when I say that the writing in Mirror Mirror was too snarky, but perhaps had I seen a greater degree of sincerity on the screen, I might have responded in kind. Someone involved with this film decided that the story really needed some knowing asides in the dialogue just to let everyone know that THEY know we’re all watching a fairy tale and fairy tales are kinda, ya know, silly and lame and stuff; this way, they don’t alienate the hipster demographic or some such frippery. Well, screw those guys! That element of the audience won’t embrace this story anyway, and a little sincerity goes a long way (at least it does with me), so this picture would have been greatly improved if everyone involved had approached it with some heartfelt earnestness. As it is, apart from the dwarves there isn’t much to enjoy at all — certainly the production design and the costumes (by the recently-departed Eiko Ishioka, whose last film this is) are top-notch, so it’s great to look at, but most of the performances fall flat with little in the way of sparking dialogue to help them, a few of the performers themselves are on the lackluster side, and Alan Menken’s musical score is cloying and treacly when it should have been more adventurous. (For this offense, I sentence him to forty lashes with the Erich Wolfgang Korngold score of his choice.) Mirror Mirror could have been a swell family film, but it falls prey to Hollywood’s dunderheaded notion that their “product” should be all things to all people. By throwing in too many knowing winks at smartypants grownups, the filmmakers robbed their story of whatever genuine charm it might have had. Well, guess what, jaded adults? Everything can’t be for you.