The story of Snow White is such a model of young-girl-meets-charming-prince that two versions of it are out this year. Mirror Mirror takes the approach of updating the old-fashioned story without losing the charm that kids have grown to love.
A wicked Queen rules over the kingdom and at times uses evil sorcery to get her way. She has married the King and then enchanted him away, leaving Snow White, her stepdaughter, as her only threat. Now the Queen is older and poorer, having spent much of the King’s fortune on lavish parties. Snow White has grown into a beautiful young woman.
Along comes a handsome prince through the forest, who gets robbed. Snow White, wandering along, finds him tied up and stripped to his long johns. He is presented to the wicked Queen, who decides to take him for her new husband. Her aim is to get his riches, making her again the wealthiest queen around. Unfortunately, he only has eyes for Snow White.
This all sounds like the original fairy tale. But Mirror Mirror is very different. For starters, Julia Roberts plays the evil Queen as a vain older woman who thrives on jealousy and scheming. In my opinion, it’s the best role she’s had in years. The castle servants can’t stand her and play tricks behind her back. They also have nothing but love for Snow White, who is played by Lily Collins (The Blind Side) to the point of perfection. With major eyebrows and a winning smile, she manages to steal the hearts of every man and dwarf in the kingdom.
With well-thought-out characterizations, the dwarfs themselves sometimes steal the show. Their appearance is something of a surprise, and we’ll just say for now that they aren’t miners. The prince is something of a good-natured dolt. You may recognize him as Armie Hammer, who played the Winklevoss twins in The Social Network. But it’s clear from the beginning that women are the stars of this show, competing both for the kingdom and for the Prince’s love.
In Mirror Mirror, the twist on the classic little girl’s story makes Snow White into something of a heroine. But there’s also plenty of swordplay and (with the dwarfs) some Three Stooges-type slapstick to interest young boys as well. Julia Roberts is outstanding and sometimes absolutely chilling as the Queen and her equally scary alter ego in the mirror. In one scene, she sits in a chair under a corpse-like trance as she manipulates puppets that become real life threats to Snow White.
Adults will find the plot very simple and at times clumsy. The kids won’t mind at all. Acting and lavish sets carry the day with Nathan Lane (The Producers) as the Queen’s headman and Sean Bean (Lord of the Rings) as the King.
Very small children probably won’t appreciate the scary forest, the swordplay, or the dark puppets, but six years and older kids should love it all. Mirror Mirror starts out a little slow and stiff, some of the jokes aren’t sidesplitters, but so much attention is given to the characters that I believe it could become a classic in live action children’s films.
Most thankfully, there are no 3D glasses to deal with. Just sparkling smiles and the deadly stare of Queen Julia. Very appropriately rated PG for very mild humor, Mirror Mirror is, in a word, charming.