Friday, March 30, 2012

Mirror Mirror

The Fairest? Not You, My Dear. It's Wicked Queen Julia!

Lily Collins as Snow White in Tarsem Singh's film adaptation "Mirror Mirror". 
Relativity Media


Omar P.L. Moore/        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW                                           
Friday, March 30
, 2012

So what do you do when you should be queen but are blocked by a haughty, wicked evil monarch who is bent on marrying the prince you've always dreamed of being with?  When that monarch is Julia Roberts, your options are very limited.  Either you fight fire with fire on the big screen, or you step back and allow the baddie to entertain.  Lily Collins does the latter in Tarsem Singh's "Mirror Mirror", the latest retelling of the classic Grimm fairy tale Snow White And The Seven Dwarves. 

"Mirror Mirror" opened across the U.S. and Canada today, and Ms. Collins plays Snow White, a melancholy presence with eyebrows almost the length of the Golden Gate Bridge.  Those eyebrows, a minor distraction, practically touch early on, then as the film progresses, gradually separate like a Hestonian parting of the Red Sea. 

Ms. Roberts is endlessly delightful as the Queen, who revels in a prince (Armie Hammer) who spends half the movie topless.  "So sad," the queen laments, that Prince Alcott has to put a covering over his bare chest.  The Queen checks her vanity in the mirror but not her greed and desire, which of course won't end up serving her well.  Ms. Roberts frolics in evil, cynicism and catty, wicked malevolence better than anyone so far in 2012, and with such glee you can't help but adore her.  It's a special treat to see Ms. Roberts, the box-office glamour lady of the 1990s, play a role where her beauty is deglamourized so well.  This queen is also ugly on the inside.  In many respects the Queen is Ms. Roberts poking fun at her "Pretty Woman" past in a sly, cheeky way.  Simply put, Ms. Roberts is the sole reason to see "Mirror Mirror" where adults are concerned. 

Conversely, Ms. Collins couldn't be more ordinary as Snow White.  Granted, Snow is supposed to be a bland if not pitiful character but there's so little countervailing challenge from Snow to the Queen that she's virtually alienated from the heart of Mr. Singh's comedy adventure.  Snow is relegated to bit player, biding time until opportune moments of glory arrive.  Snow loves the handsome and dashing Alcott on sight, and as the story goes, falls for him and tries to recapture her true title.  These two star-crossed souls keep meeting like *this*, and don't stop.  When the sad-eyed pallor of Snow becomes too much thankfully seven trusty rebel dwarves happily provide the distraction from the somewhat inanimate protagonist. 

Even when "Mirror Mirror" -- which indulges adult pleasures with its generous helping of subtle sexual delights, including the Queen's makeover montage and the continuous spanking and horizontal-izing of Snow -- gets better for the character, Ms Collins doesn't meet the changes in fortune with the requisite energy to accompany Snow's ascendance.  She's alluring enough but not very interesting even in this strait-jacketed role.  I wish Ms. Collins could have made better use of her prodigious talents here.  Mr. Hammer has vigor as the prince who jousts and jokes, but it's Nathan Lane on the mark as Brighton, the queen's trusted servant, who takes the film along with Ms. Roberts and makes it more than a dull affair. 

Mr. Singh, a director proficient in visual stages if not story crafting, makes "Mirror Mirror" a pristine, fresh and bright experience though not an especially fulfilling one.  Curious indeed is the film's opening animated sequence; it's a clever way to bridge the gap and save payroll, but when the King shows up later you wonder why the director hadn't cast the same or different actor for the early sequence.

Expressly for the kids, "Mirror Mirror" is just eye-popping and funny enough to satisfy the little ones and comical and spiky because of wicked Queen Julia R.  She's oh-so-good, and the fairest way to justify an adult's excursion to the theater, other than to take the children.

With: Martin Klebba, Jordan Prentice, Robert Emms, Mare Winningham, Michael Lerner, Ronald Lee Clark.

"Mirror Mirror" is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association Of America for some fantasy action and mild rude humor.  The film's running time is one hour and 46 minutes.

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