There is some anxiety surrounding Hollywood’s recent rejuvenations of the Brothers Grimm tale Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Considering its heritage as a landmark in cinema (the first feature-length animation), it isn’t surprising audiences aren’t jumping at the live-action update. With the 1937 Disney classic hovering over the new incarnation, Mirror Mirror (Tarsem Singh, 2012) seems to continue the lack of originality in contemporary mainstream production.
Thanks to the recession, and introduction of 3D, the premise maintains the uninspired creative slump currently crippling Hollywood. Not only this, but with Snow White and the Huntsman set for a June release, and projects based on Sleeping Beauty (Maleficent) and Hansel and Gretel (Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters) due soon, the return to the fairytale seems passé before Mirror Mirror even begins.
But the film certainly takes a different tact than previous versions, and there are clever reversals which see Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) as the victim of the bandit dwarves and the Queen (Julia Roberts). He is saved several times by the vivacious Snow White (Lily Collins), who must ultimately supply ‘true-love’s-first-kiss,’ as a role model indebted to today’s ideals of feminine freedom. Not only is Snow ‘the fairest of them all,’ but she is also kind, giving and a dab hand with weapons. The fun fight sequences provide laughs and action, especially for younger children, but also show how far this fairy tale has evolved.
The dwarves are hilariously made into giants with black stilts and bandit costumes, only to be revealed as their smaller selves, and Prince Alcott is not only reduced to his underwear, but dressed effeminately by the Queen, a far reach from the idealised Prince of traditional stories. This constant play with stereotypes provides superb humour, as Mirror Mirror self-consciously twists the classical elements of fairy tales. It is also incorporates other stories with a knowingness that stops the film from taking itself too seriously – the falling rose recalls Beauty and the Beast, and the audacious outfits and lavish sets speak not only of Singh’s past in Bollywood, but also to the absurd fantasy worlds of Lewis Carroll.
Mirror Mirror is firmly aimed at children, but it also appeals to those wanting an escape into a beautifully created fantasy world, with a familiar and enjoyable story. The script is predictable, and occasionally the jokes miss the mark, but don’t let this put you off – predominantly, the film plays humorously for laughs, and it does justice to Snow White’s legacy. If you enjoy fairy tales, or want to see how Bollywood decor is redefined in Hollywood (the Queen has the glass roof from the Palau de la Música Catalana in her bedroom – need we say more?), Mirror Mirror is a good choice, and a firm start to this phase of fairy-tale reboots.
Written By: Jade Turner