All of a sudden we seem to be getting a lot of movies and television shows centered around Snow White. Ginnifer Goodwin currently plays the fairytale princess on the ABC drama, “Once Upon a Time.” Later this summer, Kristen Stewart will take on the role in “Snow White and the Huntsman.” Last weekend brought us “Mirror Mirror,” a comedic take on the Snow White legend. Judging from the ad campaign, “Mirror Mirror” looked like it had the potential to be a light fantasy adventure along the lines of “The Princess Bride” or “Stardust.” Unfortunately, it’s more like the poor man’s “Ella Enchanted.”
The film opens with Julia Roberts as the nameless evil Queen narrating the typical setup to this story. Snow White’s mother died in childbirth, her caring father mysteriously disappeared when she was young, and now her evil stepmother has custody. Several years later, Snow White grows into the fairest maiden in the land. This, of course, doesn’t sit well with the Queen, so she sends her brown-nose servant played by Nathan Lane to do her in. The servant is too entranced by Snow White’s beauty though, and lets her go.
As Snow White scurries through the dark, snowy forest, she accidentally bops her head on a tree branch. Although she only slightly hits the branch, which was clearly in her field of vision, Snow White is nevertheless knocked out. When she wakes up, Snow White is greeted by seven dwarves that are played by some of the biggest little people working in the entertainment industry. The cast list includes Danny Woodburn from “Seinfeld,” Jordan Prentice from “In Bruges,” and Martin Klebba from “Pirates of the Caribbean.” All that’s missing is Peter Dinklage as the forgotten eighth dwarf. They all team up to bring down the Queen’s tyranny and stop her marriage to the dashing Prince, played by Armie Hammer.
The strongest aspect of the movie is Robert’s performance as the Queen. She’s fully committed to playing this heinous, self-centered villainess who looks positively glamorous in the costumes designed by the late Eiko Ishioka. But she never really emerges as a very interesting character. In the prologue, the Queen claims that this is going to be her movie, not Snow White’s. Initially one might think the filmmakers are going to make the Queen a more complex, three-dimensional figure, kind of like with the Wicked Witch in “Wicked.” However, she’s essentially the same beauty-obsessed Queen that’s been recycled in other “Snow White” interpretations. The only thing that distinguishes this Queen is her occasionally amusing one-liners.
Then there’s Lily Collins as Snow White. She’s sweet and innocent, but leaves little to no impression on the audience. Unlike other interpretations of the character, “Mirror Mirror” does at least try to make Snow White more active and strong. She even bests the Prince in a sword fight. This really isn’t an entirely original idea though. Even the most recent Disney fairytales like “The Princess and the Frog” and “Tangled” have put females in more masculine roles and allowed them to save the day. It also doesn’t help that Snow White herself is kind of a bore here.
“Mirror Mirror” has a few fun ideas and occasionally offers some creative visuals. The film’s fault is in the character development and clumsy story structure. Many of the characters are introduced only to completely disappear, such as the Prince’s manservant. Others are poorly built up then erratically plopped into the narrative, like a wolf/eagle/Chinese dragon creature Snow White fights in the climax. The screenplay shifts back and forth between the various characters so much that the audience begins to wonder whom the movie is supposed to be about. For a film with a lot of potentially intriguing dynamics to explore, none of these individuals have much chemistry.
“Mirror Mirror” furthermore neglects to put a unique spin on the Snow White story, simply coming off as redundant and half-baked. A film like the 1937 Disney classic truly appealed to the audience’s emotion and made them care about Snow White. In “Mirror Mirror,” you begin to wish that Snow White would just eat a poison apple so the movie will be done quicker.
Ahwatukee native and Desert Vista graduate Nick Spake is a student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for five years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.