Luckily, history is on our side. Deeply entrenched in European folklore, refashioned by the Grimms as a classic fable, animated by Disney into a charming and ground-breaking feature, Snow White has been whirling around in our collective imagination for centuries.
So it’s likely to survive even Mirror Mirror, which, in the ham-hands of director Tarsem Singh, blasts away the darkness while deadening the charm. When the dust settles, all that’s left are a few motes of lame comedy atop a few million bucks worth of overdressed sets. Call me Grumpy, but this seems less an adaptation than a random assault.
Indeed, randomness is the watchword here, beginning with the loopy decision to cast Julia Roberts against type. Of course, Julia is no stranger to fairy tales; once upon a time, she delighted the multitudes as a modern Cinderella in Pretty Woman.
Years have passed since then, yet apparently not enough that America’s erstwhile sweetheart is ready to sully herself as the evil Queen. Instead, stopping well short of evil, she veers off in the vague direction of bitchy laughter, only to fail on both counts – the bitchiness, like the yuks, are as faux as her Court of Versailles surroundings.
But let’s not be too hard on Julia, whose performance is just another victim of that enabling script. What’s worse, she gets saddled with Nathan Lane as her comic sidekick in the evil Queen biz, and the ever-mugging Lane is hardly an antidote to what ails the screenplay – this guy is capable of chewing even computer-generated scenery.
Worse still, it’s Nathan, in lieu of the huntsman, who leads the banished Snow White into the dark woods, where she encounters the diminutive septet of Grumpy, Dopey ... actually, no.
Sorry, but anyone hoping to brush up on their dwarf nomenclature won’t be Happy. This bunch gets new names, mainly on the mean side: Butcher, Wolf, Grub, Grimm, Napoleon and (the writers showing their fatigue) Chuckles and Half-Pint. We meet them earlier in the proceedings, not as dwarfs but as little people on big stilts, accosting the handsome Prince (Armie Hammer) and stripping him down to his undies – a sight deemed so comically delectable that it’s repeated later. Yep, the Prince frequently has no clothes – perhaps he hopes to become an Emperor.
After that, there’s a ball to be held, an opulently costumed and bewigged affair apparently co-sponsored by the conjoined ghosts of Truman Capote and Louis the Sun King.
And, naturally, there’s a mirror to be judged the fairest in. There’s even a swordfight to fight, with Snow herself taking up the blade in a playful bout with the handsome one, punctuated by her asking that most pressing of rhetorical questions: “Why do you have to be so cute?”
Finally, there are spells to be cast and potions to be drunk – in this case, “a puppy love potion” that has the Prince licking faces and bounding on all fours and generally instilling the urge to swat his cuteness with a rolled-up newspaper.
Only Lily Collins rises above the lameness, and only because in her Snow White gown of virginal hue, she hints enticingly at a young Audrey Hepburn – memories of a different royalty in a different time.
Unfortunately, as the title suggests, it’s not really her film. But no one else claims it either – not Julia, and certainly not Singh who, for no apparent reason, tacks on a lavish Bollywood musical number to run (no, stumble) over the end credits. Did I mention the assault is random?
- Directed by Tarsem Singh
- Written by Marc Klein and Jason Keller
- Starring Julia Roberts, Lily Collins, Armie Hammer
- Classification: PG
- 1.5 stars