Mirror Mirror is the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves – with several twists. Times have changed since the story’s Disney airing in 1937: Snow White (played by Phil Collins’ daughter Lily Collins) swashbuckles rather than simpers, the dwarves earn their living in a less-than-honourable way, and the Queen (Julia Roberts) is more like a Real Housewife than the Devil incarnate.
Featuring Hollywood heavyweights including Sheffield’s biggest export Sean Bean as the King (looking noticeably older than we’ve seen him before, and with his Yorkshire accent clearly detectable through his attempt at RP) and Nathan Lane (known to you and I as ‘Timon-from-the-Lion-King’) as the Queen’s sycophantic servant, the cast are let down by poor character depth and scripting.
Imagine if Tim Burton became a Twi-hard: that is the atmosphere of this film. Switching from outrageous lavishery in the palace, to the cold tone in the forest that has become synonymous with the Twilight saga, the design of this film feels very much borrowed from other creatives – perhaps this can be attributed to the film’s rushed nature.
It was due to be released in the summer, but on hearing about the release of Snow White and the Huntsman in June, featuring Twilight‘s very own Kristen Stewart, Mirror Mirror‘s release date was brought forward by three months, allowing only three months for shooting.
The story is narrated by the Queen, whose inherent sarcasm will appeal to the adults who have been dragged along to watch this film: “Once upon a time, there was a little girl called Snow White – which must have been the most pretentious name her parents could have come up with.”
It is this sarcastic aloofness that dominates Roberts’ lines, preventing her from ever appearing frightening or evil, and more like one of the Beverly Hills squad with a sense of humour. And that’s all she ever manages to achieve in this role – a little bit of light humour. She’s not funny, or menacing, or even a character with whom we can sympathise, just a little bit irritating.
It is the one liners that make the film bearable – self-awareness from the characters allows for some tongue-in-cheek references, such as the Prince (Armie Hammer) shouting: “Snow, let me out! I need to help you fight! You have to let me help you! This is how it works, don’t mess with it – it’s been focus grouped,” after he and the dwarves are locked inside the cabin by Snow White to allow her to “fight her own battle.”
However, the twists in the tale mean that the entire concept of the original story gets lost. Even the film’s title – referring to the famous mirror scene in which the Queen asks: “Who is the fairest of them all?” and is told that it is no longer her, but her step-daughter Snow White – becomes pointless, as this seminal scene of seething sexual jealousy does not appear in this latest adaptation.
The mirror becomes a parallel universe with shoddy CGI, and the extent of the Queen’s magical powers is never addressed, leaving the young audience confused and irritated.
The film wins no points for political correctness, either, with the Prince addressing the dwarves as ‘runts’ and ‘children’.
Director Tarsem Singh makes sure to upset the animal rights activists too, with the audience left not knowing whether to laugh or cringe when the Prince (who at this point has had a ‘puppy love’ spell cast on him by the Queen) yelps like a dog as he is repeatedly hit round the face by the dwarves in an attempt to break the spell.
Let’s hope no animals were harmed in the making of this film, unlike Julia Roberts’ credibility.
Our only hope is to look to the next Snow White adaptation after this bad apple – or will we be left with two Grimm tales?