If you’re looking for something new and startling in the Snow White movie “Mirror Mirror,” something along the lines of Hunger Games’ fighter Katniss in a hoop skirt, you’ll have to wait for the next fairy tale movie. “Snow White and the Huntsman,” for example, comes out June 1.
If, however, you’re looking for a lush and beautiful children’s rendition of the classic story that updates the characters while still staying true to the heart of the tale, “Mirror Mirror” is your gig.
Snow White may be modernized but she’s still all about luscious gowns and true love.
Lily Collins plays the title character, a teen kept isolated from the world by her selfish stepmother the Queen (Julia Roberts). Self-indulgent to a disastrous degree, the Queen has run the kingdom into poverty. She seems to think the poor towns people exist for no other reason than to fund her lavish parties. As Snow White approaches 18, like any good modern damsel, she develops a social conscience and begins to fret about the fate of the unfortunate citizens of her father’s once happy realm. There’s a nice small government message here, brief but sure.
When a clueless but big-hearted Prince (Armie Hammer) comes into the neighborhood, he is beset by bandits and forced to appear at court in his skivvies. Partly for his taut abs and partly for his very attractive pots of gold, the Queen determines to marry him. The problem, he’s already set eyes on the lovely, if heavily eyebrowed, Snow White.
That won’t do. Snow White must die. She escapes, of course, or this would be a short movie. The very bandits that abused the poor prince are revealed to be a brotherhood of dwarfs, united in their rejection by society and, eventually, in their adoration of Snow White.
These aren’t your grandmother’s dwarfs, though. Played by real little people, they have distinct personalities that can’t be summed up in a rhyming, diminutive word: The big-talking cowboy who can dish out a world of hurt, the Don Juan who has a soft heart under his bravado, the wild wolf-man who wears fur and howls as he fights.Forced out of town by the Queen as “undesirables,” the pint-sized everymen just want to be part of the community again. Snow takes them seriously, which helps the audience to do so as well.
Julia Roberts plays the stepmother as relentlessly selfish, with a Scarlett O’Hara fiddle-lee-dee attitude. Desperate to remain young, she submits herself to bird poop facials, scorpion bites to trim fat, and bee stings to puff her lips. Honestly, it doesn’t seem all that different than some of the high-priced spa treatments one hears about. Nathan Lane as her cockroach-esque minion does a fine job.
Lily Collins pulls off Snow White, although she is annoyingly innocent and cloying to begin. As required by the Fairy Tale Synod of 1983, a princess no longer needs a prince to rescue her, being perfectly capable of sword fighting on her own. In fact, she is contractually obligated to rescue him in some way. Haven’t any of these gender wars people heard of team work? Of two being stronger than one?
But I digress. Snow is dutifully shown to be a modern girl able to battle while looking good in a corset.
Corset? Yes. The best things about the film are the lavish costumes and beautiful sets. It feels very fairy land, with dresses that wouldn’t fit through a real-world doorway and castles found only in dreams. Colors are sharp, snow extra white, and no one seems to feel cold, even in his skivvies.
The second best thing is the subtle humor that permeates the film. The queen’s beauty treatments, magic potion, even true love is delivered with a wink and a nod even as its embraced. The humor is fine for kids. Aside from the Queen’s ogling of Prince Charming’s shirtless torso, there’s no inappropriate content or coarse humor. The film is rated PG. Even the final fight at the end won’t scare many children.
It won’t change their lives either, but “Mirror Mirror” does offer a well-made, visually gorgeous way to pass an afternoon with your little girls. And that’s what fairy land is all about.
Read our interview with star Lily Collins, on Julia and little girls who love Snow White