Gorgeous on the Outside, Worthless on the Inside
Right now, we are in a definite fairy tale trough -- last year's Beastly and Red Riding Hood; this year's Mirror Mirror and the upcoming Snow White and the Huntsman. That one stars Charlize Theron and Kristen Stewart, and seems to be a dark and violent retelling. It's a stylistic risk that could totally bomb (probably will if Red Riding Hood is any indication), but it already sounds better. For one thing, in the Theron v. Roberts deathmatch of talent, beauty and awesomeness, there's no contest. The blonde would win every round.
The moral of the Snow White story -- if there is one -- is that a person can be really beautiful on the outside and still suck pretty intensely in all the ways that matter. Does this mean that Mirror Mirror isn't a movie but a meta-critique of the story itself? Or did the writers and director fall into precisely the same trap as the wicked queen? I'm putting my money on the second one.
It makes sense that a story obsessed with physical beauty would look so outstanding. In fact, it's so gorgeous that if the acting and story were just a tiny bit better, it would almost be worth seeing it for aesthetics alone. This makes sense, because the director is Tarsem Singh, the man responsible for such stunning mind-blowers as The Cell and The Fall. Both of those movies are most definitely not for children. They are also much better than Mirror Mirror.
This Snow White adaptation isn't particularly original or interesting. It rehashes the familiar parts and presents them in a familiar way. It's the same old thing, but better looking -- like my grandma after she's had some work done.
Julia Roberts's wicked queen isn't actually evil -- that's part of the problem. She veers more toward the insecure; her self-worth rests entirely upon her appearance. I guess that might make her more relatable, but it also makes her a lot more annoying. After all, I need only watch prime-time television to see women (also men) who are appearance obsessed.
Snow White is portrayed by Lily Collins. She's Phil Collins's daughter, which makes it surprising that she came out looking exactly like Audrey Hepburn. Prince Charming is played by Armie Hammer (he of the Winkelvi twins); he's passable. Together, they are about as exciting as an apple -- an old mealy one with tough skin. Mirror Mirror has a few big problems, but this is definitely the biggest one. Even in a PG movie, we need to at least believe that the romantic leads would have smoking hot times in the (unseen) sack. Instead, I see Lily and Armie wiling away the long winter nights next to a jigsaw puzzle or possibly an improving book.
When the story opens, Queen Clementianna (Roberts) has been ruling her kingdom for many years, her king having wandered off into the forest, never to be seen again, early on in their marriage. Maybe this derailed her emotional center, because she has kept her stepdaughter (Collins) a captive in the castle until she's 18. Which makes me wonder: Why stop then? Any 17-year-old who can be held hostage can also be made to stay put when she's 22 or 37. I can't think that a queen as sociopathic as Clementianna would bow to a technicality like voting age. Anyway, Snow White's ability to buy guns and cigarettes coincides with a severe financial crisis, as related by Brighton (Nathan Lane), Clementianna's trusted advisor. She knows that she can solve all of her problems if she can finagle cradle-robbing Prince Alcott (Hammer), a newcomer to the kingdom.
The queen faces two big problems in her mercenary match: 1. She can't afford to throw the royal ball; and 2. The prince has already fallen in love with Snow White.
Snow White is banished, but fortunately she's already made friends with a band of jolly thieves who live in the forest. Something tells me happily ever after is just right around the corner. Yawn.