After the masterpiece that was The Fall and the mess that was Immortals, director Tarsem marks his entry into the fairytale terrain, a crossing that draws mixed, unexciting results. Mirror Mirror, the new Snow White film tumbles on the big screen with weak writing, exaggerated visuals and mildly nauseating acting. Its tedious humor can't provide that effortless magical touch that the Disney classics are made of.
The story remains similar to the Brothers Grimm version – a king (Sean Bean) of a faraway kingdom vanishes and his daughter Snow White (Lilly Collins) is raised by her scheming, deceitful step-mother (Julia Roberts), who plans with her crony (Nathan Lane) to take the kingdom away from Snow. Prince Charming (Armie Hammer) shows up and falls in love with Snow, and the outraged queen sends the girl away to the silver birch forest to be killed by a beast. Snow is rescued by the dwarfs (Danny Woodburn, Mark Povinelli, Martin Klebba, Sebastian Saraceno, Jordan Prentice, Joe Gnoffo) who teach her how to fight back and overthrow the evil queen.
The problem is that the film is too visually opaque, quite unlike Tarsem’s previous movies. There is a bit of his trademark surrealist imagery, like the world where the queen enters by passing through the magic mirror, but there’s not enough of it. The kids would find most of the dialogue boring and the film clichéd - the CGI monster that appears in the end is too generic to generate much interest. Even the dwarves are painfully uninteresting, and one begins to realize that Tarsem is a great stylist, but a jaded storyteller.
While the writing lacks depth and surprise, it’s the characters which disappoint the most, and Mirror Mirror fumbles along as a pastiche of classic Disney. While Lilly Collins is just about watchable as Snow White, Julia Roberts is disappointingly dull and not evil or menacing enough to make an impression. The film leaps to life only during the few moments when Armie Hammer satirizes his own good looks. The most fun part, however, is the Bollywood-esque climactic musical number that at least ensures you leave the hall not completely annoyed.
(First published in MiD Day)