The hidebound traditionalist in me recoils at the numerous changes in Mirror Mirror, a remake of 1937’s Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs. Better that you add something of substance than just throw a few new ingredients in for the hell of it. Before you rush to stream the the trashy 1961 remake, Snow White and The Three Stooges, however, you could do a lot worse for your nine-year-old than drag him or her to Mirror Mirror.
First, the changes (in ascending order of banality)…Phil Collins’ daughter Lily plays Snow White with all the modernity of a fledgling Saoirse Ronan in Hanna. No passive slouch like the original Snow White, she gets special fighting tutorials from the savvy dwarfs themselves. (No, she’s not expressing latent anger at Phil for driving Peter Gabriel out of Genesis). While the action scenes of her brandishing swordwork are largely boring, at least the decision to empower her in this age of Hunger Games is audience-friendly and simultaneously politically correct. Equally inoffensive if pure vanilla are the dwarfs’ name changes. Gone are Dopey and Grumpy. In are Chuckles, Half Pint, Grim, Grub, Wolf, etc. A couple of the little guys are genuinely amusing.
Then there’s the Queen (Julia Roberts) and her magic mirror image. Passivity out the window again. Yeah, Julia, her Mirror Image seems to say, you’re the fairest of them all but as your Mirror Image who you must cross a moat to get to, I’m also here to taunt you and provide some guilt to your callous decisions to best your own step-daughter for the Prince’s good graces. Really?
Even more ludicrous are the dwarfs donning stilts when they’re doing due diligence as highwaymen, or the Prince of Valencia (Arnie Hammer, liberated from the cakey makeup in J. Edgar) compromised by the Queen’s love potion to scamper around like a hapless dog, complete with requisite sniffing and licking. By the time we get to the beast that lurks in the forest to buffer all of the Queen’s enemies, we’re definitely in La-La land.
But as I said, you could do a lot worse if you want an innocuous kids’ flick that strives to look pretty, pretty much all the time. Director Tarsem Singh sure knows his way around art direction and costuming. Going to a movie exclusively for visuals may be like going to a baseball game simply because it’s a beautiful baseball park. There are worse ways to kill an afternoon. By the eighth inning, though, you may be thinking how much more fun it would be if the home team could actually play the game. Here, despite valiant efforts by Roberts and Nathan Lane as her servant, the realization sneaks up on you that Singh may have just been going for an easy out.
4.5 Easy Outs (out of 10)