Snow White and I go way back, so I was excited about Mirror Mirror, but I wasn’t expecting anything earth shattering. Mirror Mirror is delightfully funny, a revamping of the classic fairytale that actually breathes some light and maybe depth into a sanctity pillar of the 90s kid’s fantasy world.
The story of Snow White has been resurfacing all over the place recently. Tarsem Singh’s rendering is yet another contribution in a growing trend— there’s also the ABC drama, “Once Upon a Time,” and upcoming Kristen Stewart flick, Snow White and the Huntsman. In toe with all fairytales and their makeovers, Mirror Mirror is predictably cutesy and formulaic.
Mirror Mirror cleverly plays around with gender roles and portrays a lovely Snow White (Lily Collins) as both innocent and powerful, able to fight her own battles and make decisions independently. Obviously, the idea of replacing a damsel in distress with a sort of feminist reincarnation isn’t breaking news– but the intricate subtleties of each role reversal adds significant weight to an otherwise happy-go-lucky film.
Julia Roberts, the wicked queen, invigorates her role with a villainous smile and some great sarcastic one-liners. She opens the film by narrating an impressive CG retelling of Snow’s childhood, catching us up to the present. Under the rule of Snow’s father (Sean Bean), the kingdom was a happy place, filled with dancing and merriment. After the King’s mysterious disappearance, Snow’s evil stepmother took over the Kingdom and taxed the people penniless, banishing Snow to her chambers while she fuels the coals of her vanity. On Snow’s eighteenth birthday, Snow sneaks out of the palace to encounter the prince and discover that her people are impoverished and miserable.
In one of the first reversals, the prince (Arnie Hammer) and his assistant (Robert Ems, who disappears for a great part of the film, one in a number of loose plot-ends) run into a band of “giants,” who are actually the dwarves in disguise. Mirror Mirror’s take on the seven dwarves addresses discrimination against little people by vamping up their masculinity. The dwarves are a band of bandits, an excellent ensemble, including Jordan Prentice, Sebastian Saraceno, and Danny Woodbum. They wear inflatable accordion legs, which are pretty awesome. They all have butch names, and are a force to be reckoned with. When the prince makes fun of their height, they have no mercy, and string him up. The princess, wandering through the woods, finds them upside down, hanging from a tree and, in another role reversal, saves the prince.
Besides a few dead zones and confusion as to who controls the narrative, the film is undeniably entertaining and at times uproariously funny. Especially poignant are the scenes in which Snow blossoms into a powerful woman, still holding all the moral qualities of grace and innocence, with an added spunk. In the same day, she can best the prince in a swordfight, concoct clever plots, and serve supper to the dwarves. Arnie Hammer is jaw-dropping gorgeous in Mirror Mirror, but manages to become duped by everyone at one time or another. The thematic elements of the fairytale expand beyond vanity to touch upon broader issues of inadequacy, gender roles, and power. The set design is marvelous and beautiful – it truly is animation coming to life, and so smoothly and elegantly.
For any Snow White fans out there, Mirror Mirror certainly won’t disappoint.