“This is my story,” insists Julia Roberts’ Evil Queen at the beginning of Mirror, Mirror. It’s a bizarre assertion to anyone familiar with the Snow White folklore, and one which director Tarsem Singh’s re-telling refutes on its way to a happy ending. Still, the listless path employed to get to “happily ever after” leaves Singh’s sumptuous yet spiritless movie far more suited to the vain queen than the do-gooder princess.
With her husband (Sean Bean) out of the way, Roberts’ wicked sovereign rules over an unhappy populace whose taxes pay for her opulent parties. As her coffers empty, the Queen sets her sights on the handsome Prince Alcott (an oft-shirtless Armie Hammer), who, naturally, gravitates more toward the fair Snow White (Lily Collins). Things follow, to Mirror, Mirror’s detriment, more or less as you’d expect. Singh’s smattering of changes — Disney’s oafish dwarves are converted to a diminutive Wild Bunch, while Snow becomes a feminist action hero forced to save her feckless prince — hardly qualify as astute revisionism. Clever comedic moments are unevenly strewn throughout an otherwise flat script, making the on-screen action feel disappointingly sluggish.
Regrettably, the same lackluster vibe pops up in Collins’ turn as the heroine. She’s a stunning screen beauty, but as the once-demure Snow grows more confident, Collins never quite musters up the energy needed to match a delightfully charming Hammer and the seven quick-witted dwarves. So instead, Roberts enthusiastically sweeps in and steals the show. Her scenery-chewing antics mean Roberts just never feels evil enough, but her enthusiasm proves well-suited for Mirror, Mirror’s lavish sets and ornate costumes. Because even at its most trite, Singh’s cinematic fairy tale consistently gives audiences something magical to look at.