I saw Mirror Mirror this weekend. Here’s where I admit that I didn’t do my usual research before agreeing to see it. Sadly, because I haven’t really been paying much attention to new movies coming out, I think I mixed this up with Snow White and the Huntsman. (Why is it that there are so often two very similar movies out at the same time?) Of course, within 30 seconds, upon the first few notes of this movie, I was aware of the mistake. My expectations dropped precipitously with the opening credits, but decided to stay and see it through. And, frankly, the idea of seeing Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen (does she even have a real name in the story?) was intriguing.
While I can’t honestly say I like the movie, there are entertaining scenes, and the re-telling is interesting. The cute jokes here and there, and the stunningly beautiful costumes, go a fair way to making the film watchable. And, as expected, Julia Roberts is great. I can tell she really relished her role as the evil step-mother. And she plays it perfectly.
Nathan Lane is the consummate sycophant. He’s charming and obsequious, and yet a little devious. I’m sad that they couldn’t find more opportunities for him to adlib and show off his awesomeness. He gets some funny lines, and has plenty of screen time. But it also feels like they have a leash on him.
Lily Collins is adorable as Snow White. And Armie Hammer (Is that a real name? Really?) is super cute as Prince What’s-his-name. Honestly, I didn’t have a problem with any of the actors. They were all well-cast and did their best considering what they were given to work with.
I didn’t have terribly high hopes for the story. I knew the caliber of this movie in the first few minutes, or at least what it as aiming for, and I revised my expectations accordingly. The art style of the introduction was interesting. It certainly set the artistic tone for the movie, which I kinda enjoyed. Very colorful and stylized, with puppets (or, more accurately, marionettes) telling the story leading up to where we enter. A nice touch, and appropriate since similar puppets make an appearance later in the story.
I was instantly enthralled by the mirror imagery — how she is not just looking into the mirror, but transported to the place where her magic resides. Brilliant! What is this place? Is it her subconscious? The place where her true power lies? Or some other being to whom she is somehow connected?
But they left the parts of the story I truly dislike — the worst parts of the story in the first place, in my opinion. Why is the Evil Queen so intent on remaining in power? Why is it important for her to remain the “fairest of them all?”Why go through all the trouble of creating a new telling and not modernizing the motives? How is this any different from Tangled? Or pretty much any other fairy tale, for that matter? Why can’t we move past this trope of the evil witch/woman/queen who feeds on youth and beauty? Are we still so hung up on being beautiful as our only source of female power? What a terrible missed opportunity for bringing new life to an old tale.
I mean, the dwarfs (dwarves?) get a total and complete make-over. No longer are they Happy-go-Lucky (see what I did there?) miners who sing on their way to work. No, now they’re rough and tough bandits, with new names. And a back story that explains how they came to be who they are, doing what they do. Why couldn’t they come up with a decent back story for the queen? Or is she just evil? Is it all about beauty vs. ugly? The dwarfs’ backstory indicated that they were ostracized because they were “uglies.”
Plus, there were a whole litany of highly problematic jokes in the script, so many I can’t even remember them all. The jokes that stand out in my memory include a rape joke by Nathan Lane’s character, who had been turned into a cockroach and then “taken advantage of” by a grasshopper. Yuck. It wasn’t even a funny joke. Just a one-liner stuck in to illustrate his further humiliation after having been turned into a roach as a form of punishment. And a dwarf crawling under a lady’s skirts and snickering at her butt. Sigh.
While I have to admit I appreciate the self-rescuing princess line in the film, and the scenes of the princess training to join the dwarfs as a bandit, by that point it wasn’t enough to redeem the film in my mind. While she’s fighting with the prince, he spanks her with his sword. Several times. That just doesn’t even… I don’t… what? Is that supposed to be cute? It feels creepy.
It feels like they tried to take the original Snow White tale and turn it into a story about a princess who finds her own power, which would have been grat. But they never sold me on the fact that she actually found it. Sure, she fights some, and stages a rescue of the prince. And even rescues her father and beats the queen. But it never really feels like she is truly powerful. She’s just no longer the caged up weakling she was before.
And, of course, in the end she marries the prince and they live happily ever after. Which, I guess, is what she wanted all along — to be married to the prince. And to have her father back. I’m not saying it’s a terrible movie, just that it left me feeling more disappointed than entertained. If they were trying for a movie about a princess who escapes the clutches of the evil witch and helps the prince to save the kingdom, they should have done that, although I think Tangled did it better. If they wanted a movie that showed the evil witch in all her glory… well, I suspect that might be what we see a bit more of later this summer.