|Print | Back||June 22, 2012|
Shark Bite TheatreMirror, Mirror: Reflections on Snow White
by Andrew E. Lindsay
Fairy tales have been fair fodder for storytellers of all sorts for centuries. Books, ballets, and movies have all related and recycled familiar fables in countless incarnations, and Snow White is certainly one of the most well-known.
The Brothers Grimm of Germany collected folklore and fairy tales for years and published the first of their collections in 1812, a volume that included "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves." Plenty of authors repurposed the story over the years, and almost as soon as the nascent movie industry got started they started filming Snow White, with the first silent film of Snow White produced in 1902.
More movie versions of the story followed in 1913, 1916, and 1917. For many fans of the story, the definitive version was produced by Walt Disney in 1938, and was the first feature-length animated film ever. It was recognized by the Academy with an Honorary Oscar, presented as one statuette and seven miniature statuettes.
Since then, there have been dozens of other films and television shows whose plots were inspired by the Grimm original. The latest offering in this rather long line is Mirror, Mirror, written by Jason Keller and Melisa Wallack and directed by Tarsem Singh.
Julia Roberts headlines this family-friendly rehashing, and at 45 is still quite beautiful but no longer suited for rolls like Snow White. She slips rather comfortably instead into the skin of the stepmother, the wicked queen who had married Snow's father when Snow was a young girl.
Roberts' accent slips a bit, as well, but not in a Robin Hood à la Kevin Costner kind of way, so I'm not really holding it against her. At times I thought it might be on purpose but I really couldn't tell.
Anyway, Snow White's mother had died in childbirth, and her father, the king, had raised her on his own while governing his kingdom with kindness. He was beloved of his people and his daughter, but some time after marrying the queen he was on a journey through the woods outside his kingdom and disappeared, presumably devoured by a rather nasty beast who is still plaguing the countryside, eating livestock and travelers and generally scaring the bejeebers out of everybody.
The queen keeps Snow White confined to the castle, not even allowing her to attend yet another rather lavish ball thrown (at taxpayer expense) on Snow's eighteenth birthday.
Snow White is played by the daughter of singer Phil Collins, Lily Collins. She apparently got some musical genes from Dad, as you'll hear in a bonus music video that runs during the end credits, but she has recently been developing her acting creds on her own. She had a few appearances on the second TV incarnation of "90210" in 2009, but I recognized her as the daughter in The Blind Side.
Collins had just two other movie credits to her name before playing the role of the lovely royal orphan, and I fully expect to see much more of her in years to come. She is lovely, and as you get close to the happily-ever-after part of the movie, she is absolutely radiant with a stunning resemblance to Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday.
After an early tiff with the queen, Snow White runs off into the woods where she accidentally meets the handsome Prince Alcott, played by the handsome Armie Hammer with a nice balance of charm and goofiness. Prince Alcott has just had a run-in with seven outlaw dwarves who have stripped him of his princely attire, his princely gold, and a good bit of his princely dignity.
Snow saves the prince but disappears before he learns who she is. They meet again at a ball back at the castle, but the queen quickly puts the kibosh on the whole thing and orders her boot-kissing servant Brighton to take Snow into the woods and dispatch her.
Brighton is a likable weasel played by the charmingly spineless Nathan Lane. He takes her into the woods but, naturally, can't actually do the dirty deed, so he sets her free and returns to the queen with a bagful of stuff from the butcher shop.
Snow White, as you've probably guessed, ends up rooming with the seven dwarves. In this version they are not miners but highwaymen, robbing wealthy travelers and royal coaches and the like. As it turns out, they're not really bad guys at all, but when the kingdom started going to pot they were sort of run out of town and people were mean to them and they were plagued with other politically correct problems and blah blah blah.
But Snow White's influence on them smooths their rough edges and they become sort of Robin Hood-esque heroes to the over-taxed villagers.
As one might surmise from the blatant titular reference, the queen has a magic mirror she consults on a regular basis. The magic is far more powerful than just being able to identify the most beautiful woman in the land, and the queen has apparently been tapping the magic keg for quite some time.
The mirror reminds the unrepentant queen that using magic has a price, and as all good fairy tale fans know, sooner or later you have to pay the piper.
Being a traditional tale with modern sensibilities, the princess is not your run-of-the-mill damsel-in-distress, and she does a fair amount of standing up for herself, her subjects, and her true love. They could easily have gone so far as to make the prince a helpless, hapless dolt, but instead made him a worthy but flawed companion, just like most real life relationships: two people who are strong is some areas, weak in others, but discover that by working together and sacrificing for each other they can face any challenge life (or an evil queen) can throw at them.
So it's a pretty nice story with some enjoyable characters. Some plot points you'll find a little predictable, but hey, it's not exactly a new story anyway. It did seem to drag a bit at places, but not to the extent that I wanted to take a nap or check my email.
The laughs are a nice combination of gags that will make children squeal and references that only the adults will grasp. Nothing inappropriate for any audience, really, except perhaps very small children who might be disturbed by some scary moments, but those are few.
Besides, good triumphs over evil in the end and everyone lives happily ever after. Sorry; I should have issued a "spoiler alert" there.
Although I enjoyed it, I don't think it will end up in my DVD collection because I'm not sure I'll feel like watching it again any time soon. It's kind of like watching a guy do balloon animals at a birthday party: it's mesmerizing for a while, but when you get home with your inflated latex porcupine (or was it an elephant?), you're not really sure what to do with it now.
Mirror, Mirror is family-friendly fare that's also fun and often funny, and that's reason enough to spend an hour and a half with the kids eating popcorn and enjoying a little magic of your own.
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