May 24, 2012

Film Review: 'Mirror Mirror'

Into The Woods
Beast in the Woods!
It's taken me a long while to review Mirror Mirror, because, frankly, I didn't want to. Some films are fun to review because they are amazing, and others are fun to review because they are terrible. The least fun thing to review is a completely blah, mediocre movie, especially when it comes from one of my favorite directors. Let's just say that Tarsem Singh's latest directorial effort is, at best, a mixed bag. The story is a somewhat revisionary take on the Snow White fairy tale, focusing on Julia Roberts' evil queen just as much as Lily Collins' (she of the famous father and equally famous eyebrows) Snow White. The dwarves are misunderstood thieves, the queen has a twin sister living in a mirror (a la Cloris Leachman in the Olsen twins' Double, Double, Toil and Trouble), and there is a people-
eating Beast on the loose in the woods.

Singh has created some of the most beautiful movies in recent memory, and visually-speaking he is definitely on his game here. Every shot is a beautiful balance of light and color, and he crafts stunning shot after stunning shot. He and his costume designer (the late Eiko Ishioka) have created a sumptuous feast for the eyes. If anything, the film suffers from a glut of beauty – there are too many amazing things in one frame, and it can be difficult to focus on any one thing in particular. It's actually in the more pared down portions that the film pops visually. There is a scene midway through the film, where Snow White is running frantically through the woods that is amazing. The film shoots her through the white bark trees in the dark forest, her white dress brushed with black dirt from the ground below. The mix of color and frantic camera movement is a beautiful sight to behold.

It's really just a shame that the story that accompanies this beautiful imagery is so lackluster. Filled with cornball dialogue, the actors do the best they can (Armie Hammer as the dashing prince delivers his lines with great panache), but Collins seems out of her element and the story itself is simply too convoluted. We like plot-twists as much as the next person, but after so much zigging and zagging, the unexpected becomes predictable. An ending that should surprise and delight instead feels telegraphed from a mile away. Really, though, the film suffers because the people behind it don't know whether the film should be a straight fairy tale or a send-up of fairy tales, and the whole story lacks a consistent tone and focus. It should be better.

That said, there is a glowing bright spot in the form of Julia Roberts. Roberts, even with an inconsistent British accent, is a lot of fun, and she certainly can make the most of even her most groan-inducing lines. She actually seems to be having a good time, delighting herself with her own wickedness. The film could have used more of that sense of fun. When the film is funny, it’s at its best. When it’s emotional or self-serious, it loses momentum.

This movie is still great entertainment for children, but it's probably a miss for the over-12s. Since it's basically been out of theaters for weeks, it's probably a miss for everyone.

Film Grade: 2.5 out of 5 shiny red apples
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