Review: Mirror Mirror (2012, Singh)


Plot Summary from IMDB: An evil queen steals control of a kingdom and an exiled princess enlists the help of seven resourceful rebels to win back her birthright.

Before going into Mirror Mirror, I heard that it closes with a Bollywood number. My immediate reaction, despite not having seen it at that point, was one of vague irritation. Lo and behold, it ended up being the only few tolerable minutes in this lifeless and obnoxious monstrosity. It is the sole occasion where it musters up any semblance of energy or feeling. As Mirror Mirror death-marched itself to the finishing line, it sunk in that I quite simply hated this film.

Since I do not see everything that is released, not by a long shot, it is not often that I find myself rejecting something with this kind of fervor.

There is one thing about Mirror Mirror that I loved which, it should come as no surprise, are the costumes. It is the final film to feature the late Eiko Ishioka’s work and it is a haute couture extravaganza where all bets are off. There is so much pattern, architecture, structure, color and off-the-wall fun to be had in her designs. This is the one aspect that never bores; a costume-lover’s dream. The production design is also stellar, but suffocated by CGI and an overall cheap look the film acquires.

It is important to get those bits of praise out of the way because everything else to come is going to scathe.

Mirror Mirror tries to be a frothy and funny confectionery take on the fairy tale that plays it straight, but throws a few twists in whilst remaining self-referential. It fails on all counts. Instead of funny, we get a series of half-jokes that barely arrive and fall flat at that. There are meta-jokes about focus groups and Snow White being a pretentious name. This is really the best they could come up with? There is even a makeover scene involving parrot poop getting smeared on Julia Roberts face. You read that right; parrot poop.

It goes through the motions every single step of the way. It hits its plot points and sluggishly moves on to the next bit. At least if there were any enthusiasm to be had, there would be something to grasp on to. Instead, there is a zombified feel to the proceedings where there should be a perpetual skip in its step. Everything is covered in layers of dullness.

Those few twists previously mentioned? That mainly revolves around Snow White becoming a Robin Hood figure via a montage scene where she fences, tries to guess which cup the ball is under, and dons lots of costumes to find her ‘bandit look’. Lilly Collins is monotonously one-note. This, not to mention the uninventive script, gives nothing to propel any kind of engaging arc from forming. It does not help that Mirror Mirror does not take Snow’s ‘transformation’ very seriously. It deals in the kind of child’s play faux-feminism akin to the Spice Girls use of ‘Girl Power’. Collins and a lack of dedication to Snow on the screenwriters’ part make her arc dead on arrival.

There is also a central focus on Julia Roberts’ Evil Queen. Roberts turns in a very smug self-satisfied performance. It does not help that she is given nothing to go off of, but she overcompensates, forever snapping her fingers and hovering over a fake accent. Armie Hammer is game but awkward in a role that requires him to lose his shirt, react to what happens around him, act like a puppy and have ineffective banter with Collins. Nathan Lane is Nathan Lane. The main problem with the performances is that everyone is playacting.

The action scenes have conceptual potential, but are predictably struck down by shoddy choreography and execution. The sword-fight in the woods between Snow and the Prince is laughable. It, like all of the action scenes, is lackluster and fails to create any momentum.

Perhaps Mirror Mirror’s biggest snafu is that no flicker of genuine emotion can be found; thus no stakes can be felt and no fun can be had. It creates an immense detachment. The result is to be left with one’s own boredom and aggravation.

This is the first film directed by Tarsem Singh that I have seen. I cannot say I am eager to see more.

The longer Mirror Mirror goes on, the angrier I got. It may seem like a harmless kind of misfire, but rarely have I seen a film that puts so little stock in its own plot, characters or humor. It puts all of its stock in a tone that is painfully misguided. It thinks it’s whimsical but it’s nothing. It is 100 minutes of nothing. At one point Julia Roberts says to Lilly Collins that there is something about her that is just irritating. Well, that is Mirror Mirror for you in a nutshell.

One comment

  1. Your review confirmed my suspicions. I’m not surprised that Mirror Mirror is terrible, but you should give Tarsem one more chance and watch The Fall. It’s his only independent, personal film, and his only movie that wasn’t a director-for-hire studio gig, and it’s beautiful. David Fincher and Spike Jonze teamed up to get it distribution, if that’s any indication.

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