Several years ago, Indian filmmaker Tarsem Singh made an ambitious, self-funded and visually glorious pseudo-fairy tale called The Fall (2006); unfortunately, the story didn’t live up to the wonder of the photography on-screen. With his family-orientated, revisionist take on the classic fairy tale of Snow White, he has clearly improved his storytelling ability. However, this isn’t quite enough to not still need breathtaking images, which are sorely lacking having been replaced with a glossy veneer in Mirror Mirror (2012).
The plot sees the usually eponymous Snow White (Lily Collins, daughter of Phil) locked away in her room by the vain and power-hungry Queen (Julia Roberts) since the death of the King. When, on her eighteenth birthday, Snow manages to slip out of the palace and see the kingdom for herself, she learns that abject poverty has descended on the once joyous realm due to the Queen’s taxation. This coincides neatly with the arrival of the handsome Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) but before the two can get together, Snow flees the castle and takes refuge with a group of bandits; the Seven Dwarfs.
Tonally erratic, Mirror Mirror pits the earnest Collins against a Roberts with her tongue so firmly in-cheek it’s a wonder she can enunciate. Collins’ performance unfortunately makes Snow White a little too bland to really deserves too much of the audience’s affection – even if she does look the part – and this is not aided by the evil Queen not being near menacing nor, conversely, funny enough.
The supporting cast do their best and are responsible for all of the laughs which are successful in keeping Mirror Mirror from dragging too much. Hammer is perfectly cast in the Prince Charming role and does a good job in a barmy sequence after he is put under a spell by the evil Queen, whilst Nathan Lane provides a typically comic touch as the Queen’s lackey. The dwarfs proffer the film’s most consistent laughs and, through their burgeoning relationship with Snow White, its heart.
Sadly, for a director who shot The Fall in over a dozen countries and found some of the most arresting locations committed to film, the setting for Singh’s Mirror Mirror is rather plain and is too computer-generated to ever inspire much awe. Still, the story rollicks along at a pace fast enough to keep children and adults interested, it just cries out for two better-written lead characters that would elevate it significantly.