This post is the unedited version of the review, published in our columns Animadversion (iMAGES on Sunday, Dawn Newspaper), 1st April, 2012. The published copy is linked at the end of the post.
Wickedness – Of an Hour and a Half
By Farheen Jawaid
The much loved Snow White and the Seven Dwarves gets a makeover Shrek style, adding to the mix the three essential S’s: sassiness, silliness and sarcasm. But unlike Shrek (at least the first two parts), Mirror Mirror lacks charm, making this live-action version an oversized misadventure.
The movie starts with a creative animated sequence, which, dare I say, is the only part that stands out. It covers the fairy tale thus far: a time long ago, Snow White was a princess much loved by her father (obviously The King), who remarries to give his daughter a mother, and soon after goes off to fight black magic and dies.
Many years pass, Snow White (Lily Collins) becomes eighteen and we find out that the land is ruled by her stepmother, Queen Clementianna (Julia Roberts). As a stereotypical stepmother she is evil and hates Snow White’s guts. Regardless of her inability to stand Snow White, she is not kept like a servant in this story. The stepmother, maybe fearing the power of the people, just keeps her away from her sight.
Wearing grand gowns and giving balls, Clementianna rules the land with her tyrannical tax collections, while the kingdom goes broke.
Like the story goes, she characteristically says the immortal line that goes “Mirror Mirror”, and literally walks into her bedroom mirror emerging, swinging out of water, to a pier leading to a forlorn shack. Here she talks to a bloodless reflection of herself, in mirrors of varying sizes. As this is a not-so-harrowing version, Clementianna’s conversations are mostly about her routine beauty check.
Meanwhile a handsome prince, Andrew Alcott (Armie Hammer), enters the kingdom’s forest and promptly gets robbed by a gang of Dwarves on stilts. Found hanging, half-naked and upside down, he is saved by Snow White, and then finds his way to the castle.
Clementianna, also searching for a husband, a wealthy one nonetheless, finds the prince a bargain: the lad is a dish with extra trimmings. Money and good looks is a winning combination in any evil queens menu. But before she can proceed with her happy ending, she has to get rid of Snow White. We all know how that’s going to end, right?
Mirror Mirror has an impressive set of actors with impeccable comic timing: Julia Roberts, Nathan Lane. Even Armie Hammer comes out shining. I haven’t seen Hammer in a truly comedic venture, but his potential for comedy was apparent in his dialogue delivery even in drama driven roles.
The other prominent stars from the title: the dwarfs – played by Jordan Prentice, Mark Povinelli, Joe Gnoffo, Danny Woodburn, Sebastian Saraceno, Martin Klebba, Ronald Lee Clark – do their roles with loveable energy. However the same cannot be said for Lily Collins, who delivered Snow White with the same vacant, plastic eyes as she did her characters in Abduction and Blindside.
Tarsem Singh, the director, does his job clumsily in this new take on the classic Grimm’s fairytale, adapted by Melissa Wallack and Jason Keller. The idea got the comedy right, making Snow White a princess who saves, rather than needs saving. Alas, their end product came without conviction.
All I got from Mirror Mirror was a lively return of Julia Roberts, who had been soulless in her recent films. Here, she plays the Queen with vicious gusto for evilness. Even if I was to forgive everything boring about Mirror Mirror, I can’t forgive the awful song (I Believe) that broke out at the end. If anything, that killed the film for me.
With one Snow White out of the way, let’s see what the next one – staring an armor clad Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron – has to say for itself.
The published version is at: http://www.dawn.com/2012/04/01/sheer-wickedness.html