I think it's safe to assume that most of us have watched, and rewatched, a slew of princess movies, and read our share of treatises on the impact these movies have on our daughters' young minds. In a culture where rich and pretty is becoming the ultimate goal, I understand the concern. However, my children have seen them all, and so far remain fairly logical when it comes to their chances of a royal title any time soon. Mirror Mirror, a re-imagining of Snow White, tries, and is mostly successful, to give Snow some personality and a story that is as much about finding herself, as finding her Prince.
The character of Snow White is second only to Sleeping Beauty in complete lack of personality, so director Tarsem Singh and team, had a lot of room for emotional growth for our creamy skinned heroine. Lily Collins, who looks a bit like the love child of Bjork and Audrey Tautou, but acts a bit like a bored rich girl on a CW show, tackles looking beautiful and trying on outfits with aplomb, while seeming a bit over the rest of it. Yes, the Queen (Julia Roberts) is hateful, like, really hateful, and the Prince is cute, and there are poor villagers, an absentee father and possibly impractical palazzo pants, but really, Snow never seems too worried, or sad, or scared that things won't work out in the end. She does have aggressively emotional eyebrows though.
Mirror, Mirror is breathtaking to look at. It begins with a spellbinding animation sequence, that also provides a tidy summation of how our Princess ended up in dire straights.The present day tale starts with Snow gazing out the window of a precariously perched castle, shrouded in ice and snow. She's decked out in the first of a series of costumes in the film (by the late Japanese designer Eiko Ishioka), that would cause the Project Runway judges panel to weep. She even has a beautiful little bluebird, much to my Violet's delight. We first meet the Prince (Armie Hammer) in a birch tree forest so glorious, that I was momentarily distracted by plans for a trip with the kids to New Hampshire. It really is a wonder to behold. Even the dirt Snow collects along the bottom of her ball gown, when she is cast out for death, is stylish. I was momentarily distracted by wanting a white dress with dirt on it, should Julia Roberts have it out for me.
Amongst all this beauty is a story that moves along swiftly and enjoyably. It's funny, at times awkwardly so, and even suggestively so — the Prince repeatedly nuzzles the Queen's neck in her bed, while he is under a spell that makes him act like a dog, and there is a joke about inter-bug relations. The dwarves initially drink and steal, but they are quickly reformed. It may not be entirely appropriate for children under 8ish, but my kids weren't scarred.
Roberts is very wicked, and handles the shifts from storytelling to one-offs well, although the levity is sometimes at odds with the flow of the story. Hammer is a charming Prince Charming, and the dwarves, made taller by cool springy boot things that they hop and flip around on, add an interesting element of pathos and camaraderie. There is no kind woodsmen in this version, rather a cowardly sycophant played with deep comedy chops by Nathan Lane.
My daughters both noticed that Snow White becomes a warrior, who decides her own fate, which I was pleased about. Indeed, it does still end with a wedding, and the dread of wrinkles (NO! NOT WRINKLES?!), but as a poppy and pleasant foray to happily ever after, I think Mirror, Mirror is a pleasant diversion that families won't mind watching, and probably rewatching.