Mirror Mirror: a review of a Snow White retelling

Mirror MirrorA review by Nalini Haynes

A retelling of Snow White, Mirror Mirror begins as a story told by The Queen (Julia Roberts). Snow White is played by Lily Collins while Armie Hammer plays Prince Alcott.

Nathan Lane (Timon from The Lion King) plays Brighton, the Queen’s lackey and comedic boot-licker; just as well this role is played for laughs because every time he opened his mouth it was like ‘OMG TIMON.’

Mirror Mirror starts out fairly traditionally although with added pecs: the Prince is stripped to the waist every time he’s robbed by a gang of thieves who happen to be giant dwarfs. 

The Queen almost literally drools over the handsome prince; the interplay, the dialogue… very entertaining.

The dwarfs

Snow meets the dwarfs after fleeing in the woods. To stay with the dwarfs Snow has to become one of their gang of thieves; queue training and couture costume montage.

Although loosely based on Disney’s Seven Dwarfs, the dwarfs in Mirror Mirror aren’t just comic sidekicks. These dwarfs have heart, strengths and interests, loves and loyalties. I’m guessing Peter Dinklage’s popularity in Game of Thrones has broadened Hollywood’s horizons with regards to the potential for people of short stature.

One of Mirror Mirror‘s highlights was the notes at the end of the movie listing the happy-ever-afters of these talented men.

Archetypes & Imagery

I’m currently studying archetypes at university for my writing degree, which is why I watched Mirror Mirror last week.

How cool is that, watching movies for study?

A brief round-up of the most obvious archetypal tropes: the step-mother is aging while the young woman grows up; instead of handing over to the next generation the step-mother robs the young woman of her youth while undergoing some very entertaining beautification rituals (social comment much?)

The Queen’s clothing and rooms prominently feature peacocks; symbolism much?

A servant is the mother-figure and teacher who sends Snow White to the village to learn about her people, effectively beginning the Hero’s Journey.

The dwarfs are mentors and allies who train Snow. I was disappointed to see the dwarfs, who were so kick-ass the rest of the time, cowering under beds, needing to be rescued by Snow. A more mutually achieved victory would have been so much better. I guess this is one time when you accept the feminist win – kick-ass heroine saves the day – and hope for a team victory later.

SFX

In the beginning, Mirror Mirror is obviously buffed using special effects; certain scenes are so colourful and glowy they almost look like they’re not live action. I’m not sure if this is toned down later or if I just became accustomed to the look of the movie; throughout it remains a larger-than-life colourful romp.

The snow isn’t cold. Snow White wore off-the-shoulder summer-weight tops and loose pants for living as a thief but never felt the cold. The prince and his retainer were both stripped to their underwear – more than once – but never seemed to feel the cold, only to feel a degree of embarrassment about their situation. Yes, I know the snow was actually salt on a set, but REALISM! Please. Just a teeny bit would be nice.

Costumes & set design

The costumes were fabulous. To really see the costumes worn by the background characters you have to watch the extras; they are incredible. The colour, the effort put into individual design, the detail in the sets – I want the art book. Having watched Mirror Mirror once, I wonder how much more symbolism can be found by re-watching. I suspect hidden depths.

Conclusion

Although the story begins being told by the Queen, Mirror Mirror quickly moves from her point of view to Snow White’s point of view. Later it’s obvious the Queen started to tell the story without knowing the end, which weakens the narrative. The production value and creativity is definitely worthy of five stars; this confused story-telling detracts from the power of the movie.

Rated PG, this is a real family movie that can be genuinely enjoyed by generations sitting down together. 4 out of 5 stars.

In At the Movies, Margaret gave Mirror Mirror 4 stars and David gave it 3 ½. [air punch. Didn’t look this up until after I’d written my review.]