No surprises here, just a fun and funny piece of PG eye candy.
Out of the depths of the crypts of rehashed fairy tales told far too many times comes the latest permutation of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” This time, the pot is stirred by emerging director Tarsem Singh, Singh was assistant director for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and has won BAFTA and director’s Guild awards for his commercials.
This background figures materially in the development of “Mirror,” in that the primary goal of the film is to be commercial. The over-riding theme is to make a better piece of eye candy than was ever made before and, above all, to offend no one.
In this, the film is a complete success. Perhaps the time is right for another whack at the fairy tale. After all, it has not been redone in a while and it is a great story. It has all of the right elements; the cute, cuddly and a bit sexually suggestive dwarfs, evil magic, love, the handsome prince and, above all, the flouncy courtiers that make royal life the fun that it is.
In fact, it is the courtier Brighton, in the person of Nathan Lane, who makes this film what it is. Lane provides about 75% of the humor in the film and the dwarves and Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) provide most of the rest. Julia Roberts is left to narrate the plot and push things forward with her skullduggery.
In the eye candy department, the film is without compare. The costumes are beautiful. They come as close as could be imagined to the real thing, whatever that was. The dwarves’ costumes are rough and kinky as could be. The Queen and Snow White’s dresses are as perfect as could be imagined. The perfection of the dresses is exploited further with scenes of cinching up the Queen’s corset with something resembling a ship’s windlass.
Over the top, at least for a twelve year old. Although not entirely funny, the scene is entirely inoffensive since Roberts seems to have a perfect figure to begin with. Using the winch on a woman of actual, real, obesity would have ruined the whole thing.
The sets were made with loving precision and attention to detail. The grand ballroom is truly grand. Whether computer generated a little or a lot, the effect of the interior and exterior set design is to take the viewer back into the heart of Disneyland. Everything is real and, yet, a little off-kilter at the same time. We are loving it.
Similarly, the cinematography is exploited to get the most visual impact in the shortest period, without bothering over any particular message. The big things, horses, monsters and The Queen, are viewed from the bottom up. The little things, dwarves, are viewed from the top down.
When a dwarf falls down into the cubby hole entrance to their underground home, a child could just imagine falling down an imaginary drainpipe. Except, of course, the landing is a soft bed or feather pillow. Thrills, spills and very minor chills.
Although this film will be criticized for being too light duty and commercial, those great old Disney classics were, well, light and commercial. Kids like that stuff and, lest we forget, this is a kid’s film.
In spite of the director’s intent to use “real weapons and real aggression” the fight scenes echo the acting throughout the film, and are mostly mugging. The screenplay is a series of one-liners that is thoroughly entertaining and thoroughly hollow at the same time.
The Bollywood ending is a stroke of genius and is truly hilarious on several levels. It takes the savvy part of the audience (the adults) back into the sound stage and twists the thoroughly American plot into an Indian ending. For the kids it is a grand flash of light and color with more smiles per square meter than the Mickey Mouse Club.
Throughout the movie, lead Roberts, Collins and Hammer pretty much do as they are told. Thank goodness for Nathan Lane. Although his performance is also predictable and composed of mugging and one-liners, he is the best there is at that. Go see this film for the fantastic costumes and sets.
All in all, it is a fun and funny piece of PG eye candy.
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Directed by: Tarsem Singh
Written by: Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (original story) and Melissa Wallack and Jason Keller (screenplay)
Starring: Lily Collins, Julia Roberts and Armie Hammer
Release Date: March 30, 2012
MPAA: Rated PG for some fantasy action and mild rude humor
Running Time: 106 Minutes