2012 is shaping up to be a big year for fairy tale princesses. If you haven’t heard: there are not one, but TWO Snow White movies making their way to the cinemas in the next 3 months. This week sees Mirror Mirror hitting the big screen while the Kristen Stewart vehicle Snow White and the Huntsman is slated for a June release. Is this doubling-up of Snow Whites purely a coincidence, or a part of some wicked conspiracy between studios to brainwash our children away from eating apples?
Mirror Mirror stars Lily Collins (daughter of Sussudio hitmaker Phil) opposite Julia Roberts and looks to be the more traditional of the two movies. The film has a strangely irreverent tone that sets it out as a light romp, which is not a bad thing at all. Director Tarsem Singh quickly marks this out as a children’s film, shying away from any real violence, turning his attention to the eye-popping visuals for which he’s best known. His previous films The Cell, The Fall and Immortals may not have suggesting this as the next step in his career (you can see him occasionally struggle with nursing the script’s breezy style) but his opulent visual sensibility lends itself perfectly to the fairy-tale genre.
The sets and costumes have been designed to within an inch of their lives and the film makes very few attempts to solidify the reality of this world. In fact, one wouldn’t be far off comparing Mirror Mirror to a big screen panto: Roberts’ evil Queen is camp and knowing, her manservant (Nathan Lane) is a Mr. Smee-like comedy sidekick while Armie Hammer’s Prince is very often forced into the role of buffoon. The humour may be a bit broad for adult audiences, but it’s tough not to admire Mirror Mirror’s ambitions and influences — the argumentative camaraderie of the dwarves is a clear reference to Time Bandits; Lily Collins looks a lot like Jennifer Connolly in Labyrinth; and the banter-laden dialogue is reminiscent of The Princess Bride. Singh’s film never quite reaches the heights of any of those classics, but you can’t fault the effort.
Mirror Mirror has few aspirations of being a Shrek-style cross-generational hit: it doesn’t make any attempt to update the story or make it hip in any way. It’s a film that’s firmly made for pre-teens that will probably keep the kids engaged for 100 minutes.
So to summarise: it’s a perfect movie for a day out with your nieces and nephews, but an awful pick for a first date.