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Thursday, April 5, 2012 10:34 pm

Fresh perspective makes for a bright Mirror


Well, you could have knocked me over with a poisoned apple. In promoting this year’s first entry in the Snow White movie duel, Mirror, Mirror, Relativity Media is focusing on all of the wrong elements. As shown in the film’s trailers, the movie appears to be a cheaply done production that was shot on bland soundstages and that slapstick comedy is the only thing the movie’s narrative has to offer. Thankfully, nothing could be further from the truth. Mirror proves to be one of the most visually arresting films to hit the screen in quite some time and it sports a very clever script that manages to stay true to the Grimms’ original fairy tale while injecting a modern humorous sensibility into the story.

It’s apparent from the start that screenwriters Melissa Wallack and Jason Keller are intent on giving us a revisionist take on the classic fairy tale as the Queen (Julia Roberts) informs us that, “This is my story, not hers,” referring to her innocent and beautiful stepdaughter, Snow White (Lily Collins). This shift in perspective opens the story up in interesting ways as we’re told that the kingdom is on the verge of bankruptcy as the Queen’s indulgent ways have left her coffers empty and her subjects overtaxed. The disappearance of her husband, the King, a decade before, and the fact that Snow was too young to assume the throne allowed her to act unchecked, much to the dismay of Brighton (Nathan Lane), her royal advisor.

Things come to a head when Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) wanders through a nearby forest, is accosted by seven dwarves on stilts and is robbed and left half-naked. This is the condition he’s in when he appears before the Queen who’s immediately taken with the hunk, even more so when she discovers he’s rich. However, her plan to marry him is derailed when Snow catches his eye.

With Tarsem Singh (The Cell) at the helm, the film is a sumptuous delight, a dazzling, wondrous vision that capitalizes on the story’s fairy tale roots from the start. An incredible prologue that tells us of the fate of the King and sums up Snow White’s early years, utilizes a kaleidoscope, animated puppetry and a wide array of vibrant colors to plunge us into the story. Singh doesn’t let up throughout, as the wardrobe, sets and backgrounds are all rendered with meticulous detail, each contributing to creating a world in which all fairy tales could take place and one that I wish had been rendered in 3-D.

Adding to the fun is the perfect cast. I can’t remember the last time it was so obvious that Roberts was having fun on screen. In a sense, she’s sending up her own image here as the Queen is as demanding as she’s purported to be, and it’s good to see she’s not above poking fun at herself or looking her age in the extreme close-ups Singh employs throughout. Collins, who seems to have been born to play Snow White, counters her effectively, her innocence offsetting Roberts’ cynicism, and she convincingly changes from a princess to a warrior under the tutelage of the renegade dwarves. As for Hammer, he proves to be a good sport throughout, unafraid to go to great lengths for a laugh and shows he has a bit of comedic talent in his bag of tricks.

To be sure, the film stumbles during its third act as an unnecessary action scene and a climax that goes on too long undercuts the movie’s momentum. Still, Mirror effectively combines fairy tale tropes with a modern sensibility and succeeds in delivering a magnificently rendered happily-ever-after tale that’s far better than you’ve been led to believe.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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