Not as funny as I had hoped it would be.
I try hard to not get sucked into the hype surrounding the trailers for upcoming movies. I know that often they can simply be the six best moments in the entirety of the film (and in some cases, actually really funny scenes that got cut from the final production). In fact, I frequently find that most trailers either oversell the film or, in many tragic cases, undersell them. The trailers for the Grey had me convinced it was going to be a fairly rote survival movie, and when I saw it I was kind of blown away by how good it was.
So the trailers for Mirror Mirror had me thinking it was going to be a dopey story but that Julia Roberts, whom I think is great, would carry the film by being the bitterly sarcastic megalomaniac character that I love. The few scenes they showed definitely seemed to imply it. However, I probably should have taken a look at the credits and realized that directory Tarsem Singh was also the creator of crime-against-storytelling the Immortals. He also did the Cell, which I always liked, but still he is not known for his story delivery.
What he is known for is amazing visuals, and that definitely shows here. Be it a CGI castle in a cliff, the amazing dresses Julia Roberts wears throughout, or even something as simple as a winter forest every scene screams amazing eye candy, which I did enjoy a lot. The action was farcical but fun, and every shot was done with loving care.
That’s the part that frustrates me about this film. All the pieces of a great, funny film are present. Great camera work. Awesome costume design. Good, creative CGI. Good source material. I thought Julia Roberts did an admirable job as the queen, and her interactions with her toady yes man Brighton (Nathan Lane-The Lion King, Bird Cage, the Producers) were easily the funniest parts of the film. Lily Collins (the Blind Side, Priest, Abduction) managed to be more than a pretty face, and leading man Armie Hammer seemed to catch onto what this movie was supposed to be about and seemed really into the spirit of it. The Seven Dwarfs (Jordan Prentice, Mark Povinelli, Joe Gnoffo, Danny Woodburn, Sebastian Saraceno, Martin Klebba, and Ronald Lee Clark) had the potential to be a real comedy asset, although they got sidetracked into being more the Seven Samurai and less the Three Stooges. It looked like you could really craft something great out of all these parts.
However, like a building made of all the best bricks money can buy but put together with a mix of sawdust, chewing gum, and peanut butter the quality parts of this film never really stick together and fall apart by the end. The story was plagued by continuity problems that bugged the hell out of me. All the characters except the queen lacked any kind of clear motivation to do any of the things they do. The comedy kept shifting tone from acerbic dry humor to goofy kiddy humor (think You Can’t do that on Television as performed by adults) with smatterings of slapstick, none of which really worked off each other and all kind of died on the vine. While the dialog between the Queen and Brighton was good, the rest of it lacked any real impact and the the quick camera work, more apropos for an action scene, robbed a lot of it of any impetuous. There was a dark undertone in the form of the queen really being some kind of Baba Yaga style witch (or at least her alter ego was) that kind of detracted from the lighthearted nature of the rest of the scenes, but that undertone itself was robbed of any gravitas by the lighthearted parts. It was a snake eating its own tail.
Anyway, the story is about as basic as possible. Snow White (Lily Collins) is under the care of the evil(ish) Queen (Julia Roberts) after her father mysteriously disappears in the forest shortly after marrying the queen. The queen is taxing the hell out of the peasants to pay for her Paris Hilton-esque lifestyle while claiming it is all for defense against a mysterious man eating beast in the forest. Snow White goes out in the world to observe what is going on (cleverly disguised as a commoner in her solid gold robe) and discovers the prince and his valet tied up after being robbed by the seven dwarfs (who use expanding stilts that bugged me at first but I got to like by the end). They experience fairy tale love at first sight but pass on. The prince ends up at a ball at the palace where the queen plans to entice him and marry him for his money. Snow White crashes the party and they meet again. The queen sends her to the forest to be killed with Brighton, but he balks and she ends up with the dwarfs.
If your experience with Hollywood and fairy tales hasn’t let you know how this story is going to go from here email me and let me know what kind of Skinner box you were raised in. The Dwarfs aid Snow in getting the prince back. A kiss to break a magic spell in involved. No surprises arise to derail the train before it’s last stop at Mundania.
The stars. Great visual movie. One star. Costuming was really, really good. One star. For the most part acting was well done across the board. One star. Some funny moments, and some of the dialog worth a chuckle. One star. Julia Roberts and Lily Collins are both easy on the eyes. One star. Total: four stars.
The black holes. Pacing/continuity issues that bugged me (one example might be a training montage that turned Snow White from a fairy princess into a deadly warrior in like an afternoon of elapsed movie time). One black hole. Overall not as funny as I think it should have been. One black hole. Story felt disjointed, and lacked a real tone. One black hole. Total: three black holes.
One star total. If any of you have read any of my other reviews you should be able to tell when I am ambivalent about a film by the relatively low numbers of either stars or black holes I give it. Is it worth seeing? Sure, if you just want something that won’t strain your brain and might impress you with some great dresses or scenery. If you are a Julia Roberts fan you might very well enjoy it. Is it a must see? No, not really. You won’t walk away from this film with any kind of enrichment, and in six months it’ll be one of the many “Oh, I saw that” films. However, if are are going to see it you might well benefit from a big screen for the imagery, so consider going to a theater.
Thanks for reading. I am seeing the Raid: Redemption tonight. It is an Indonesian movie and looks freaking amazing. I am a huge martial arts film fan and think this could be awesome. Look for my review on it tomorrow (Invisible Fist image courtesy of the Movie T Shirt category). Talk to you all soon.