Let’s come right out with it: Mirror Mirror is a disaster; a jokey, stagy bomb that sputters around like the worst faux-clever high school play you’ve ever seen before it mercifully comes to an end. After 10 minutes, I’d had enough. By the time Armie Hammer licks Julia Roberts’s face, I envied the old lady in Airplane! who hanged herself rather than listen to the rest of Ted Striker’s story.
There’s nothing worse than a movie featuring material that everyone involved clearly found hilarious, forgetting to let us in on the joke. Director Tarsem Singh (The Fall) is a great visual stylist, but he’s the wrong director for a campy Snow White rehash that’d barely qualify for ABC Family. The movie looks like a grandiose pageant, boasting the filmmaker’s trademark outsized visual compositions and some ridiculous costumes, but it’s tongue-in-cheek slop, with a bunch of phoned-in dramatics and sprinklings of vaudevillian humor that would have been dated during the vaudeville days.
Roberts delivers an annoyingly self-absorbed turn as the evil Queen, who appoints minion Brighton (Nathan Lane, giving the exact performance you’d expect) to kill her step daughter Snow White (Lily Collins), the famed “fairest of them all.” A proud young woman, Snow naturally escapes her fate, finding her way to the seven dwarfs in the process. Together, they engage in banditry and plot to take back the kingdom, while winning over a hopelessly slow-witted handsome prince (Hammer) in the process.
Shrill and obvious, this all lands with a resounding thud. Whenever Singh’s visuals threaten to add some scope and impact to the proceedings, even if they are essentially carbon copies of images he’s produced before, the script and uniformly awful performances bring things back to earth. When a movie’s idea of engaging content is to turn Lane into a cockroach, when its idea of edgy humor is to have Roberts receive a spa treatment involving leeches, maggots and parrot poop, something went horribly wrong.
In fact, the film has been so painstakingly tailored toward what some studio executives clearly perceived to be safe, tame family content that it’s impossible to give a damn. The kickass, feminist Snow White angle is neutered by the poorly choreographed generic action, the halfhearted stabs at showing the character’s independence and Collins’ breathy, one-note work. The plot is bogus, small-minded junk that floats around onscreen and dies in a heap of nothingness. You fidget and squirm, watching with absolute disinterest that morphs into total disgust. I can’t remember the last time I felt so detached from a movie.
Of course, in one respect, it seems odd to get so worked up about a movie of such little consequence. Audiences won’t remember Mirror Mirror in a week, and by the time Snow White and the Huntsman rolls around in June, there’s no doubting what will forever be the obscure answer to a trivia question as the “other” Snow White movie of 2012. This isn’t a movie that matters, and there’s nothing especially reprehensible about it. It’s just really, really bad, in mind-numbingly boring ways.
The Upside: The film looks cool and the Bollywood dance number over the end credits is somewhat fun.
The Downside: The deadly, neutered campy spirit that causes the movie to flop around like a fish out of water before it finally, mercifully ends.
On the Side: Disney has put Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the only Snow White movie that really matters, back in the vault. Now would be a good time to get it back out there, guys.