A Disney movie in all but name

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TO MIRROR3 (Left to right.) Julia Roberts and Lily Collins star in Relativity Media's Untitled Snow White Project.

MIRROR MIRROR

DIRECTOR: Tarsem Singh

CAST: Julia Roberts, Armie Hammer, Lily Collins and |Nathan Lane

CLASSIFICATION: 10M

RUNNING TIME: 106 minutes

RATING: ***

This retelling of the Snow White fairy tale is gorgeous to look at, but doesn’t go much deeper than the surface. It’s a family movie, filled with snappy dialogue, lots of snow and the most sumptuous of frou-frou dresses.

Julia Roberts and Lily Collins sweep their way through the castle and forest in increasingly puffy confectioneries of lace and silk as the Evil Queen and Snow White, respectively.

Whether it’s the splashes of colour or the detailed sets, there’s always something to look at.

This version starts off with a remarkable animated sequence to fill in the background and skips to Snow’s 18th birthday when she meets Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer).

Up to this point, the queen has managed to keep Snow White sequestered from her subjects, but the young woman shows a bit of spine and, well, we know what happens next.

Cue the dark forest, seven dwarfs and that kiss.

Hammer (J Edgar Hoover’s life-long companion in Leonardo DiCaprio’s FBI film J Edgar) looks the part as the cape-wearing, sword-wielding Alcott – even if he’s not really the one doing the saving – but Collins can only do so much as yet another innocent princess waiting to be added to the Disney line… wait, this isn’t a Disney movie!

Mirror Mirror is about as close to a Disney movie as you can get without actually being produced by Walt Disney Pictures, and Alan Menken’s light and frothy score does a great deal to cement the family-friendly feel.

There’s the modern language for an anachronistic feel, the absolute non-violence despite many of the characters wielding weapons and a home-spun message – believe in yourself.

An out-of-left-field Bollywood ending completely scuppers all the fun that leads to the happily ever after moment, though.

By all means, have Collins break out into song at the end, but why in a Bollywood style which clearly leaves everyone around her looking very uncomfortable and utterly confused?

Up to this point there was no indication of any of the melodrama usually associated with Bollywood movies, so to be left with this taste of rotten apple in your mouth is just unfair. We know where the story is going, it is, after, all one of the most loved of fairy tales, but what keeps your attention is trying to second guess which permutation we’ll get of the myriad possibilities.

Julia Roberts plays this queen as a self-indulgent woman who lives only for the moment and, while she’s clearly having fun with the one-liners, she pales in comparison to Sigourney Weaver’s Emmy-nominated, dark take in Snow White: A Tale of Terror (1997). It will be interesting to see how Roberts compares to Charlize Theron’s version in Snow White & the Huntsman (releases June 1).

The trailer for the Huntsman version suggests the queen steals souls to preserve her own appearance, while Mirror Mirror doesn’t ever explain the origin or power of this queen’s mirror.

Still, when this queen says “Mirror, mirror on the wall”, she is transported to a CGI-created world that makes the film worth watching.

This slightly out of kilter place where a pale, gaunt Roberts haunts the other side of the mirror, continually asking her brightly coloured counterpart: “Are you ready to pay the price?”, plus that sequence with the puppets, hints at a better movie waiting in the wings.

Now, imagine combining director Tarsem Singh’s visual skills with the better parts of M Night Shyamalan’s penchant for storytelling and JJ Abrams’s ability to keep a film moving – that would explode the Snow White fairy tale once and for all.

If you liked… Nanny McPhee or Mr Magorium’s Wonder Emporium… you will like this.

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