"Mirror Mirror" is the first of two re-imaginings of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" we're getting this year (the other being the forthcoming "Snow White and the Huntsman"), because clearly the most common complaint movie-goers have is, "There just aren't enough movies about Snow White!"
We start out on a positive note: Julia Roberts as the evil Queen appears to be telling the story from her tongue-in-cheek, bitchy perspective. However, that narrative quickly changes for no apparent reason, but hey, let's go with it.
The Queen has ruled over the land for the ten years since the king disappeared in the dark forest. Since then, the kingdom and its citizens have become destitute, while the Queen and her palace are doing just fine.
Then there's Lily Collins (musician Phil's daughter) as Snow White. On her 18 th birthday, she seeks permission from her stepmother the Queen to leave the castle but the jealous monarch will not have it, banishing her back to her room. When Snow takes the initiative to leave the castle anyway, she discovers a kingdom in shambles.
So, where's the prince? On her way back to the castle, Snow stumbles upon a shirtless Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer), hanging upside down after being attacked by seven dwarves, who are pretty much bandits. Snow cuts down the prince and…they go their separate ways. However, when the prince shows up at the Queen's palace, looking for a shirt and some shelter, guess who thinks she's found herself a new husband? Of course, for his part, the prince can't stop thinking about the stunning young woman he met in the forest.
Without going into too much detail, Snow White is banished from the castle, where she takes up with the seven dwarves - but these aren't your cute, familiar Doc, Dopey, Sneezy, Grumpy, etc. Instead, it's Napoleon, Half Pint, Grub, Grimm, Wolf, Butcher and Chuckles, and they are a crafty, tough, sometimes hilarious crew. Which is good, because it's one of the film's strengths.
What made the idea of "Mirror Mirror" so initially compelling is it comes from director Tarsem Singh, who knows how to create impressive on-screen aesthetics (see "The Cell" or the more recent "Immortals"). On the other hand, storytelling isn't exactly his strong suit (see "The Cell" or "Immortals"). In the case of "Mirror Mirror," Singh gives us a safe, whimsical, family-friendly film that's kind of adorable but should've been better. His preference for style over substance and aesthetics over performance diminishes Roberts' and Collins' performances, but there's still plenty to like.
Three out of five stars.