Julia Roberts Reflects on Snow White in ‘Mirror Mirror’

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HollywoodChicago.com Oscar winner rating: 3.0/5.0
Evaluation: 3.0/5.0

CHICAGO – Since I know that I am the most beautiful of all, I will not concentrate on the symbolic impressions of ‘Mirror Mirror.’ It is the legend of Snow White based on the original story by the Brothers Grimm, and features Julia Roberts, Lily Collins, Armie Hammer and Nathan Lane in its cast.

It was a lovingly delivered film, full of fairytale production design, amusing asides from Nathan Lane, a princely performance from Armie Hammer and America’s-Sweetheart-Gone-Bad Julia Roberts. What he lacked in this delivery was a spark of energy and preferred to throw easy gags instead of going darker. It’s not that the movie is disappointing, it’s just that at the end there’s a sense that something is missing, or a wish that the whole movie could have been as good as its sporadic best moments. .

The movie isn’t Disney’s Snow White familiarity, it’s based on Jacob and Wilheim Grimm’s grittier multi-layered story. In a distant kingdom lies a happy land where the king (Sean Bean) adores his only daughter, Snow White (Lily Collins), especially since the death of her mother. But he ends up remarrying and Queen Clementianna (Julia Roberts) ascends the throne. When the King mysteriously disappears, the castle is left to Snow White, now 18, the Evil Queen and a sycophantic servant named Brighton (Nathan Lane). The once happy kingdom falls into misery.

Lily Collins is Snow White in
Lily Collins Is Purely Motivated As Snow White In ‘Mirror Mirror’
Photo credit: Jan Thijs for Relativity Media

The queen has her famous mirror, and middle age threatens her title of “the most beautiful in the land”. Meanwhile, Snow White ventures outside the castle walls for the first time and encounters wandering Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer), who has been robbed by seven little men. Snow brings him back to the castle and there the queen decides to marry him. But the prince’s ardor is focused only on Snow White, so the jealous queen banishes the girl to the cold forest. The seven “dwarves” adopt her and prepare her to fight for her love, the throne and the kingdom.

The film is visually arresting, both in production design and costuming. Director Tarsem Singh brought last year’s mythological “Immortals” to the screen in a similar fashion, and here he imagines the scenic splendor of the fairy tale. The settings – like the magnificent castle, the wintry forest and the dwarf’s house in a hollow tree – have the same quality as the elaborate illustrations of a storybook. The costumes, especially those of the royal family, have the perfect letting-go-cake indulgence and add to the separation between castle dwellers and peasants.

Performance is random. The two main characters, the Queen and Snow White, take some time to find their traction. Julia Roberts can’t get bad enough and plays the antagonist like a petulant, sarcastic child. Lily Collins, probably better known as the girl in “The Blind Side”, quietly explains Snow’s role, but becomes more interested in it after her combat training by the dwarfs. The conflict of their good versus evil then takes too long to heat up, and the first half of the film drags on.

Armie Hammer (“The Social Network”) has fun with the character of the prince, especially after he falls under a spell that causes him to act in unseemly business. Nathan Lane is the perfect movie to kiss the Queen’s butt and has many of the best laugh lines as he plays a comedic Greek refrain. A surprising cast, like 1980s favorite Mare Winningham (Baker Margaret) and actor Michael Lerner (the Baron) adds spice to the mix.

Armie Hammer is Swashbuckling as Prince Alcott in
Armie Hammer is Swashbuckling as Prince Alcott in “Mirror Mirror”
Photo credit: Jan Thijs for Relativity Media

The film imbues its narrative with sly humor and adds electricity to traditional procedurals. The dwarves are almost comic relief when they show up, and in addition to combat readiness, they provide background commentary on Snow’s adventures. The original fairy tale is actually quite dark, with its dark magic, Snow White’s femininity, and the selfishness of the Evil Queen. While welcome, the humor shattered the potential for something deeper.

The second half of the film picks up the pace and action of the story, but there’s nothing really exciting under that ever-happy sun. It’s almost as if the whole movie is defined by Mae West’s old quip, “I was Snow White, but I drifted.”

“Mirror Mirror” opens everywhere on March 30. With Julia Roberts, Lily Collins, Armie Hammer, Nathan Lane, Mare Winningham and Michael Lerner. Screenplay adapted by Melissa Wallack and Jason Keller. Directed by Tarsem Singh. Rated “PG-13″

© 2012 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com