2012-03-30

Mirror, Mirror – Princess Bride Meets Snow White?

by Yo Snyder

When I heard that Tarsem Singh was directing the first of the two
Snow White films to hit theaters this year, I was little surprised.
“Really?” I thought. “That guy? His last movie (Immortals) had more blood in it than a blood bank, and the other movie he’s well-known for (The Cell)
is just kind of straight up freaky. He’s the guy to make a
family-friendly Snow White?” Apparently so, and the big surprise is; he
does a pretty good job. Mirror, Mirror has many of his trademarks
(style over substance, amazing visuals over developed characters and a
well-developed plot), yet lacks some of his others (it’s neither freaky
nor bloody), but most importantly, it’s a fun fairy tale that the whole
family can enjoy.

Over the years many filmmakers have tried to recapture the magic of that true fairy tale classic, The Princess Bride. Many have failed, a few have succeeded. I’d put Mirror, Mirror in the success column. Although not nearly as witty or delightfully funny as Princess Bride, Mirror, Mirror
exudes that same sort of light-hearted charm. It retains that feeling
of a classic fairy tale while also feeling entirely contemporary. Like Princess Bride,
much of the breezy fun comes from the characters. Julia Roberts and
Nathan Lane both appear to be having great amount of fun in their roles
as the wicked queen and her faithful boot-licker respectively, Armmie
Hammer exudes the exact right amount of charm and humor (and a bout of
wackiness as well) as the prince, but real fun comes when we meet the
dwarves. Danny Woodburn leads a fantastic group of actors who bring much
of the charm and laughs to the film with their fantastic portrayals of
this rag-tag group of dwarf thieves. Lily Collins is fine as Snow White,
but the truth is she’s often out-shined by those she’s working with. 

One area where Mirror, Mirror may trump Princess Bride
is in the visuals; but that should come as no surprise to those who are
familiar with Singh’s work. The world of this Snow White is vibrant and
colorful with some costumes and styles even more outlandish than those
being worn in the Capitol (a little Hunger Games reference
there). Despite this lavish beauty, however, there are times when the
film almost feels like it’s a play. Many of the scenes take place in the
exact same places (one way to save on set design), and despite some of
the sweeping CG vistas that look spectacular, there’s a smallness to
this epic as it never really seems to go anywhere. That’s true of the
story as well (again, no surprise for those familiar with Singh’s work).
This film isn’t nearly as quotable or filled with as many so
endearingly, charming characters as Princess Bride. Plus, if you
really stop to think about the progression of the plot, you’ll quickly
see that it just kind of lurches from scene to scene. Yet, if you’re
willing to just sit back and enjoy the ride, it’s still plenty of fun
despite some of these shortcomings. 

My favorite line comes early
on when the wicked queen (again, delightfully played by Roberts) says to
Snow White, “It’s important to know when you’ve been beaten. Yes.”
Naturally that thought comes back to haunt her in the end, but I
couldn’t help but think of how ironic it is that so many villains think
that exact thing. Secure in their triumph, they want the heroes to admit
when they’re beaten, and yet so often it’s the villain who ultimately
loses and yet are unwilling to admit defeat. Come on, admit it, it
happens all the time in movies; the bad guys just can’t admit to losing,
and yet they absolutely demand that the good guys do so when it appears
that they are. Well this very situation played itself out around
two-thousand years ago in the land of Israel. Dying on a cross, Jesus
Christ the Son of God was the absolute picture of defeat. Broken,
bruised and bleeding, the very sky grew dark in an ominous sign of his
passing. His death appeared to be the ultimate victory for evil…until
three days later when the grave Jesus was buried in turned up empty.
Suddenly, evil’s victory was revealed as its ultimate defeat. Yes, it’s
important to know when you’ve been beaten, but Satan and his minions
refuse to accept that. The Bible is very clear about who wins in the
end, the only question that remains is; which side are you on?

It was hard to decide what to make of Mirror, Mirror early on, but in the end it’s turned out to be a rather fun if slight fairy tale comedy. Not quite as classic as The Princess Bride, but certainly cut from the same cloth. In a weekend where film choices include kids killing kids (Hunger Games), gods killing god (Wrath of the Titans), and hockey players pummeling other hockey players (Goon), families looking for lighter fare (and have already seen The Lorax), will find Mirror, Mirror
is delightfully easy to enjoy no matter what age you may be. Is it the
fairest one of all? There’s no denying that it looks pretty good, but
perhaps more importantly, it also has plenty of personality.

Score: 5 of 7