Blu-ray Review: MIRROR MIRROR Doesn't Become Clear Until The Credits

Contributor; Seattle, Washington
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Blu-ray Review: MIRROR MIRROR Doesn't Become Clear Until The Credits
Tarsem Singh, I think it's safe to say that you and I are quits. It's not me, it's you. As it stands, you're zero for four with me, producing visually interesting but mentally inert films since your debut with The Cell.

And it's not like each has been bad in some kind of predictable trajectory--Immortals is distinctly terrible and poorly staged in a way that's very different from the too-precious-for-its-own-good The Fall.

Continuing that trend of finding new ways to disappoint, we have his latest, the other Snow White film of 2012 Mirror Mirror, which didn't exasperate me in the way the rest of Singh's output has to date, but instead, finds a way to be promising, only to squander said promise by delivering a final film that feels as easy, jaded, and programmatic, a Disney musical without the music, modernizing the material without actually saying anything new.

Whereas Immortals was supposed to be his Caravaggio by way of Fight Club, according to the disc's making of doc, the vision for Mirror Mirror was to create an animated musical that happened to be live action. I'm trying to unwrap what benefit that might provide the overall final product, but let's roll with it.

The film opens with, curiously enough, a well animated prologue by Julia Roberts' evil Queen (delivered through one of those rough, why bother faux Brit accents), whodescribes how after Snow's father disappears, she assumes control of the kingdom. At this point, it seems like this will be a story told from the Queen's POV, but Mirror Mirror can't really decide if that's the case on a scene by scene basis. Snow White is played by Lilly Collins who seems sweet and nice, but doesn't really register besides. There's a prince and he's played as something of a blowhard bumbler by Armie Hammer, along with seven dwarves who leap around the forest on stilts, robbing passing nobles.

Mirror Mirror plays out the familiar beats of the story: the Queen is fed up with not being the fairest and banishes Snow to the forest where her heart is to be plucked out (here by the Queen's lackey Brighton, played by Nathan Lane), along with some of the mandatory reinvention of the princess tale including Snow White's transformation into some kind of guerrilla fighter (of the "rob from the Queen only" variety), while the Prince is back at the castle, fending off the advances of the Queen, who'd like to refill the dwindling royal coffers through a royal marriage.

Let's start with the good: in spite of the accent, Roberts is mean, nasty, and funny as the Queen, and I was almost sold on the film in its early moments when I thought we'd be getting the story from her perspective. Likewise, there are some inventive setpieces, including the attack by a pair of murderous marionettes (undone a little by how long the scene goes on). Then there's the standout sequence of the entire film, the credits musical number led by Collins, "I Believe In Love." And right there, a sprawling live action Bollywood-style musical Snow White is yet another movie that I would have loved to have seen Singh tackle.

But you have to take the movie that's in front of you, and that one that's in front of us today simply isn't very good. Most of the humor is aimed at the much younger set but then a nice chunk of the plot involves the decidedly more mature machinations of the Queen to have her way with the Prince. Collins isn't bad in her role, but she seems outmatched by the outsized performances of everyone else.

The biggest problem with Mirror Mirror is that it contains a couple of movies that I would have been thrilled to see, and the germ of good ideas poorly executed is something you kind of have to deal with in the film criticism line. On the upside, it's provided cover to simply beg off any further consideration of Singh's work which I don't think is going to get any better.

Special Features

The disc includes six deleted scenes, Looking Through the Mirror featurette (12:58), I Believe I Can Dance (11:01) which walks viewers through the closing choreography, the Mirror Mirror Storybook which presents Mirror Mirror as well, a storybook using stills from the movie, and Prince and the Puppies (01:59) which is a kid's eye view of Armie Hammer's prep for the dog spell scenes.

Mirror Mirror is available now on DVD, Blu-ray, and VOD.

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