GENRE: Storybook romantic comedy
THE PITCH: A reimagining of the classic tale by the Brothers Grimm, the story is principally told from the perspective of the Queen (Julia Roberts). Reveling in her palatal lifestyle and desperate to hold on to fleeting youth, it's of little surprise that her stepdaughter, Snow White (Lily Collins), becomes the center of her irritation. When Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) enters the kingdom, both women vie for his attention — the Queen wants his fortune, while Snow White seeks his help to take back her ravaged and cursed kingdom. Being the evil witch that she is, the Queen desperately tries to shift the odds in her favor by enchanting the prince while simultaneously destroying the virtuous Snow White.
MONEY SHOT: At the beginning of the film, the Queen provides a bit of back story with the aid of an enchanted zoetrope. She tells the story of how she became queen and the unfortunate life of her stepdaughter Snow White. The sequence is told within in a large, plush puppet stage featuring beautiful aged porcelain marionettes as the central characters.
BEST LINES: Snow White protects Prince Alcott from a pending attack by locking him within the dwarfs' hovel. After divulging her plans of essentially rewriting the age-old adage of a prince saving the damsel in distress, Alcott offers his expertise on the matter by stating, "Changing fairy tale endings don't work — it's been tested in focus groups."
WORST LINE: After lying about a failed attempt on Snow White's life, the Queen turn her valet, Brighton (Nathan Lane), into a cockroach. Later when he transforms back into himself, he recalls the experience and adds, "In a strange turn of events, a grasshopper took advantage of me."
QUEEN "B": Never without a bit of snark, the Queen offers her venomous quips with a matter-of-fact ease. Punctuating the idiocy of her stepdaughter's name, she describes it as, "The most pretentious name they could come up with." After raising taxes, essentially squeezing the last bit from her already impoverished peasants, she encourages Brighton to say something clever to make them pony up more money. In a flippant comment she says, "Bread is meat, less is more ... commoners love a good metaphor."
THE SHORT ABOUT THE DWARFS: While most are familiar with story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs thanks to the classic Disney feature, there are actually hundreds of versions of the fairy tale. In several iterations of the tale, the dwarfs are not miners, but instead have a more mischievous career. The seven dwarfs featured in this film are certainly not miners, but you'll have to discover their occupation on your own.
SKIN REGIMENT: The Queen will go to any length and endure any expense to maintain a youthful appearance. Prior to her costume ball, she partakes in a very expensive spa ritual to beautify herself. The totally homeopathic procedure includes a mask made of bird droppings, a school of carp to eat dead skin off fingers, bee stings to plump lips, and other unexpected creatures to keep her looking unblemished and radiant.
FASHION NOTE: All of the costumes featured in Mirror Mirror were created and primarily stitched by the late Eiko Ishioka. Known throughout the industry as a visually forward designer, she won an Academy Award for costume design for Bram Stroker's Dracula, a Tony nomination for the Broadway play M. Butterfly, and a Grammy Award for art direction on Miles Davis' album Tutu. Ishioka died earlier this year in January after completing this film.
BOTTOM LINE: Director Tarsem Singh, who's best known for transforming film into his own vibrantly colored canvas, has moved into a new space — family films. His previous works, including The Cell and most recently Immortals, illustrate his almost painstaking allure toward pretty yet dirty things. What a surprising turnaround to see when paired with an original hit-and-miss screenplay by Mark Klein. This lighthearted and inventive adventure fits well within Singh's aesthetic for creating lush, picturesque story landscapes yet veers safely away from his usual darker theatrical tones. As the perfect compliment to this ocular feast, Julia Roberts as the bitch we love to hate is refreshing and the nontraditional dwarfs are unexpected gems that round out this film perfectly. Both kids and adults are sure to enjoy this smart, contemporary fairy tale full of laughs, charm, and spectacle.