Mirror, Mirror is not for children who want films to mimic fairy tales in every detail. But for everyone else, this is an amusing take on the Snow White story: It’s about a narcissistic, overly Botoxed, party-loving, power-mad queen who bankrupts the kingdom with massive tax increases, versus a brave and beautiful princess who thinks her subjects should be able to keep more of their own money and who doesn’t sleep with her hot prince until after the wedding.
In other words, a classic tale of good and evil.
While the bare bones of the Snow White story are kept, the story is reimagined in a freshly funny way.
Snow White (played by breakout star Lily Collins) who’s been locked in the castle since her father’s death, sneaks out on her 18th birthday and is horrified to discover that the villagers, who’d been happy and prosperous during her late father’s reign, are now poor and hungry, thanks to the evil queen’s (Julia Roberts) sky-high taxes, which pay for elaborate parties and the queen’s endless beauty treatments, employed in a desperate attempt to remain the fairest of them all. Snow also meets handsome Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) in the woods, hanging upside-down on a tree branch, put there by the seven dwarfs for daring to make height-related jokes.
Snow and Alcott meet up again when Snow crashes the queen’s ball, given in honor of the wealthy prince, whom the Queen hopes to make her sixth husband. The queen orders her groveling henchman, Brighton (Nathan Lane), to take Snow into the forest and feed her to a mysterious beast. Interestingly, this is not because the magic mirror has declared the princess lovelier than the queen, but because Snow White reminds her that she is the rightful heir to the throne, thereby threatening the queen’s power. Instead of sending Snow White to her death, Brighton sets her free, and she soon meets up with the seven dwarfs.
With these dwarfs there is no heigh-ho-ing off to work each day; they’re professional bandits who rob passersby of their treasure. Snow White shames them for this, but they are defiant: The queen has ethnically cleansed them from the kingdom because they are ugly, and they’re just getting their revenge. But when they manage to steal tax revenue, Snow White grabs it and returns it to the people in the best Robin Hood tradition.
Viewers will find the Snow White of Mirror, Mirror far more complex and intelligent than the saccharine simpleton of the 1938 Disney animated film. This princess ditches her gowns for pants, learns to sword-fight, courtesy of the dwarfs, sasses her prince, and — in another twist on the original story — ultimately frees him from the queen’s spell by giving him the kiss of true love. When the mysterious beast swoops in to kill Snow White on the queen’s orders, Snow White and her prince join forces to destroy it. Meanwhile, back in her mirror-filled lair, the queen pays the price for using magic for evil purposes: She turns into a hag that no amount of Botox can fix.
While the film keeps the traditional ending — Snow White and her prince at the altar — the film’s takeaway message is that young women should depend on their own brains and resources, not just wait around for Prince Charming to show up. Mirror Mirror also mocks our celebrity-worship culture and obsession with looking beautiful no matter what the cost — which, in the wicked queen’s case, involves undergoing a bird-poop facial.
There is little in the PG-rated Mirror, Mirror that will bother parents — though one might tiredly ask why, in a children’s film, movie makers always feel the need to add any vulgar material. For instance, when the queen encounters the half-dressed prince, she mutters that she can’t focus because she’s distracted by his manly physique. When she accidentally gives him a “puppy love” potion, the prince leaps on top of her and enthusiastically begins licking her face. And when Brighton is turned back into a human after a “time out” as a cockroach, he complains that “a grasshopper took advantage of me,” clearly referring to inter-species rape. Tacky. And unnecessary.
But these are minor flaws in an otherwise delightfully goofy film. With her hair dyed black, Lily Collins looks amazingly like a young Elizabeth Taylor, who, like Snow White, was considered the most beautiful woman in the world.
Mirror, Mirror has a lush and magical feel to it — exactly what you would expect for a fairy-tale kingdom. The costumes — designed by the late Oscar-winner Eiko Ishioka, are gasp-worthy, especially the queen’s petal wedding dress and Snow White’s swan costume for the ball. The amusing dialogue and fast-moving plot create the rare family film that entertains, not only children, but also teens and adults.
Mirror, Mirror opens today.