Directed by “The Cell”‘s Tarsem Singh, “Mirror, Mirror” sports that the elaborate production design and visual world-building that’s typically associated with the director.
It’s certainly competently directed, although the script (credited to Melissa Wallack and Jason Keller) is poorly paced and not especially clever.) It periodically drops in snarky, satirical dialogue that doesn’t fit, and most attempts at humor fall flat.
The new film follows the usual beats of the familiar Brothers Grimm story and the 1937 Disney version. Snow White (Lily Collins) is a princess locked up in the castle by her evil stepmother (Julia Roberts), who she battles with the help of the Seven Dwarves, on the way to winning the heart of the prince (Armie Hammer.)
Roberts plays a full-on villain for once, and in the process sucks most of the oxygen out of her scenes, using an English accent that comes and goes. She’s playing evil but it’s really not that far from her usual performance- the evil queen really wasn’t that much more loathsome than Roberts’ character in “Eat Pray Love.”
Lily Collins is a true find as Snow White, and by far the best thing about the movie. The daughter of Phil Collins and an actress best known for playing Sandra Bullock’s daughter in “The Blind Side,” Collins lights up the screen in every scene she’s in. Her chemistry with Hammer- the former Winklevoss who was born to play a live-action Disney prince- is very good as well. Hammer also has the advantage of not spending half the movie behind grotesque old-age makeup, as he was in last year’s “J. Edgar.”
The supporting cast is taken up mostly by talented actors- Nathan Lane, Mare Winningham, Michael Lerner- not getting a whole lot to do, although the dwarves (led by Cosmo Kramer’s old sidekick, Danny Woodburn) have some moments. And Disney legend Alan Menken is a welcome name in the credits as the composer.
Despite the strong Snow White, good love story and competent direction, “Mirror Mirror” is ultimately a bit too slight. However, it’s unlikely that the more action-oriented “Snow White and the Huntsman,” coming this June, will improve upon it.