A silly, comedic and light take on the Snow White story, Mirror Mirror aims to do a couple of things. The first is to provide a very pretty visual experience. It has been directed by Tarsem Singh, after all, and his previous directorial efforts have all been gorgeous. Mirror Mirror is no exception. The second is to make you laugh more than a few times. Certain characters have been reworked and the changes — along with some of the dialogue — will make you laugh relatively consistently.
Take the first scene, which is pure exposition, in which the evil Queen Clementianna (Julia Roberts) is setting the stage. Prior to her arrival in the kingdom, everyone was singing and dancing at all times, she mentions, before then going on to say “apparently they didn’t have jobs; they just sung and danced all day long.” I was laughing. The film isn’t really a parody but it has some self-aware moments that are rather funny. The “damsel in distress” in this film is more often than not Prince Charming (Armie Hammer) — named “Alcott” but we know who it really is — not either of the two females.
The plot is established like this: the aforementioned Queen married the King, locked Snow White (Lily Collins) in the castle, killed the King, and then ruled over the kingdom for years and years, essentially sending it into ruin. The villagers are now impoverished, and her only way to raise money is to increase taxes on those who already are without food and water, let alone additional funds to pay for her lavish parties.
Near the beginning of the film, a couple of things are set in motion. Firstly, Snow White escapes, wanders into the Dark Forest, meets the Prince — who is on his way to meet with the Queen and perhaps marry her — and eventually becomes leaders of the dwarves, who are not miners but Robin Hood-esque bandits. The Prince, meanwhile, falls in love with Snow White but winds up siding with the Queen for a lot of the film. She, on the other hand, wants to marry him because he comes from a wealthy land and that would solve all of her monetary problems.
The Queen is also motivated by her beauty, as she must be, which leads to a really funny montage in which she is covered in all sorts of nasty things — bees, worms, parrot … droppings, to name a few — as well as a couple of scenes in which she talks to her mirror which warns that using magic has deadly consequences and all that jazz. The Queen wants Snow White dead, Snow White wants to take back her kingdom, and the Prince just wants to find love. Do you think everyone’s going to get what they want? Well, no, because both evil and good can’t win, right?
Actually, the queen doesn’t seem that evil to me. She’s ruined the kingdom and isn’t exactly nice, but she’s also sort of charming and not the evil evil that you expect from villains. Part of the reason it feels this way is because of Julia Roberts’ fantastic and hilarious performance in the role. She’s not taking it anywhere close to seriously, and that tone is mimicked by much of the film. She steals the show as the Queen, and almost everything that comes out of her mouth made me laugh.
If Mirror Mirror has a problem, it’s that it’s not always sure of exactly what it wants to do at any given time. It tries to do everything at some points — be a romance, be an action-adventure, be a farce — while at other times it just sits there doing nothing much at all. And when it tries to do everything, it only kind of succeeds. Its romance is lackluster due to a focus on action, the action isn’t that good because the comedy keeps getting in the way, and the humor sometimes misses because of the attempted romance.
Still, even during these moments, Mirror Mirror looks fantastic. Singh loves his landscapes and lavishly designed sets, and they’re shown to full effect in this film. A Snow White movie benefits from having a large color palette and strong production designs, and Mirror Mirror has both of those. Even when not a whole lot is going on, your eyes are going to be captivated by the film’s visuals.
Lily Collins makes for a perfect princess. She’s sweet and innocent, and that makes her great for a generic princess but also for the unconventional one from this film. Armie Hammer is a funny Prince, often acting more aloof and silly than one Prince Charming often is. But, I suppose that’s because he’s not technically “Charming,” is he? I’ve already mentioned Julia Roberts but it bears repeating: She steals the show in every scene she’s in; after seeing her perform, I can’t think of a better actor to play this version of the evil Queen.
Mirror Mirror is a silly fantasy movie based on the Grimm fairy tale of Snow White. It’s a mostly comedic take on the story and does a good and funny job of switching up enough of the plot and characters to keep things fresh. It has gorgeous production design and costumes, it has a good cast, it’s relatively funny, and I can’t see too many people disliking it. It tries to do too much at times and can’t really pull it off, but for the most part it’s enjoyable and if you need another Snow White adaptation, this is a good one to see.