By: Garrett Collins
Starring: Julia Roberts, Lily Collins, Armie Hammer, Nathan Lane, Mare Winningham, and Sean Bean
Someone has woken up Tarsem Singh. After making approximately two films in ten years (The Cell and The Fall), he has matched that number in one (Immortals, my review of which can be read here, and Mirror Mirror). Ever since his music video days back in the 90s, I have admired Singh’s visual style, which, quite frankly, was the major highlight of Immortals for me. Yet, I was really looking forward to what he could do with Mirror Mirror. A story that has been told countless times (and will be again with the upcoming Snow White and the Huntsman), but, armed with a cast that includes Roberts, Lane, and Hammer, just to name a few, I was curious to see what would come of it. How would he frame Collins’ Snow White? How would the costumes of the Queen (how evil is she? We’ll get into that a little later) look against Singh’s always lavish back drops? How ominous will the seven dwarves be? All of these questions were definitely answered. Yet, unfortunately, I was also given the answer to how Singh would handle comedy. And, that, Amigos, is an unfortunate failing mark.
Truth be told, the first ¾ of this movie does not feel like a Singh movie at all. Sure, there’s a very cool computer animated prologue telling us where the story and characters are at the time we catch up with them. And, when we do, I must say, it is kind of underwhelming. We meet the witch, played by Roberts, and, it is really hard to tell just how evil she is. In fact, with her condescending tones and way she treats her people (notably Brighton, played amusingly by Lane), she doesn’t come off as a witch. But, she sure as hell comes off as a word that rhymes with it. And, was this a part of the original story? I feel that Singh and his writers really dropped the ball on this one. Roberts, to her credit, seems to be relishing this role and plays it very well. She even sparingly lets loose with a couple of the Pretty Woman type laughs that we know her so well for. But, make no mistake about it: this is her movie and, while I have never been the biggest fan of her work, it was a joy to see her in this role.
That’s not to say the others weren’t having fun also. But, one of Mirror Mirror’s problems was that it was not fun seeing them. The Ewo…uhhh, I mean seven dwarves played their parts fine (I especially liked their use of stilts in fights), yet their Jar Jar type goofiness tended to get under my skin at times. Speaking of getting under my skin, Hammer, especially, was almost unbearable in this movie. Constantly playing the goofy card, yet doing his best Taylor Lautner (both line reading and shirtless) impression at least 4 times, it was tough seeing him in this role. Especially after he really held his own with Leonardo DiCaprio in Clint Eastwood’s J.Edgar. And, while this performance could mostly be attributed to the writing, Hammer just does not come off well onscreen at all in most of this movie. It also, unfortunately, proves that Singh is just not cut out for the goofy comedy this script calls for. Most of the jokes delivered fall flat, and his directing of comedic timing really seemed off the whole movie. Also, while his color scheme here includes a ton of gold & silver, this may be the blandest looking film in Singh’s career. And, given the reigns of a fairy tale I would have thought he could come up with more than this.
Collins, on the other hand, was astounding. Her entrance into the movie from a snow covered hut and performance here proves that she will be a star for many years to come. And, no matter how bad the lines given to her were, she delivered them like a champ, and it was just stunning seeing her expressive, piercing eyes and jet black hair every single time she was onscreen. Yet, while Mirror Mirror fell flat with its jokes most of the time, the film really picks up in its last 20 minute block, all of a sudden turning into the kind of ride I would expect from Singh. With many very well choreographed fights and some pretty good CGI effects, it had the perfect Tarsem feel and I was reminded of just how Singh could work his magic if given free reigns over a fairy tale. And, you really need to get a load of Roberts’ make-up as the ‘hag’ while offering Snow White an apple. Fantastically done. Unfortunately, this last quarter of the film is not enough to save Mirror Mirror’s overall experience. And, as a fan of the man’s work, the film is not something that I would readily endorse as fantastic entertainment. However, it is always nice seeing a star being born in front of my eyes. And, that is what I feel about Collins within the course of this film. And, while it was an almost blatant rip-off of the final scene from Return of the Jedi, the end credit sing and dance scene had me almost cheering. And, if you are not singing the song played during that scene on the way to your car, you obviously have an absence of ears.
3 out of 5