The accordion legs of Mirror, Mirror

Mirror, Mirror is the first of two Snow White adaptations which will grace our silver screens this year. This is the lighter of the two, and from the trailers, it looked far too light, on the point of absurd.

It’s not as bad, however, as it made itself out to be.

I’m certainly willing to admit I was wrong, but much of the blame lay at the feet of the trailers as well. The main theatrical trailer was a minute and a half of unfunny, nearly-offensive slap-sticky schlock, and if the whole film had been like this, it would truly have been terrible.

Fortunately, there was only a total of about a minute and a half of nearly-offensive slap-sticky schlock. I guess whichever editor was cutting the trailer thought these were the best moments of the film. Well, they aren’t.  Strangely, but thankfully, some particularly silly scenes from the trailer are not actually in the film.

The film’s exposition gets us going with a beautiful CGI sequence telling the story of Snow’s childhood, with an in-character voice-over by Julia Roberts, who plays our villain.

This focus on the beauty of the scenes continues throughout the film. In nearly every scene there are some fun visual details or an interesting camera angle. There are lots and lots of CG backgrounds and establishing shots here, but nearly all are seamlessly fitted into the frame. Occasionally, the scale of some element would seem inconsistent (in one scene, the princess running into a lower entry of the castle makes the place look dozens of stories tall, but a later scene shows that the whole thing is maybe 40 feet tall. This doesn’t really detract from the beauty of the scenes, but visual nitpickers might find themselves feeling itchy.

Julia Roberts plays well the evil queen, and it’s from her that most of the film’s smartest humor comes. In an interesting, but sensical, twist, Roberts also plays the part of the queen’s magical source – depicted by a man’s face in the mirror or a disembodied voice in most adaptations – which seems to reside within a sort of alternate magical dimension, reached by stepping through the mirror in a special effects sequence you’ll have to see to appreciate.

We also get great performances from Nathan Lane, as the queen’s advisor, and Armie Hammer, as the prince, but the real gem of the film is Lilly Collins who shines in the role as much for her beauty, which lives up to the legend of Snow White in a way our other snow this year simply can’t pull off, but also for her versatility, which this retelling demands. She plays equally well to meek damsel, the distressed princess, the dashing rebel, the bantering sword-fighter, and the joyful bride. I look forward to seeing where this actor’s career takes her next.

The ‘dwarves’ all give the kind of performance you expect when someone is cast for their stature rather than their ability. There were no terrible performances in the small troupe, but there were also no stand-outs.

The film cleverly places a lot of focus on role reversal. Not just social expectations, but the actual roles of the classic story as well. For example, Snow, in this adaptation, must give “true love’s kiss” to the prince to rescue him from a curse. The film is littered with similar reversals, and they are seamlessly played off, turning the movie into a fun sort of puzzle that makes the viewer feel clever for finding the pieces along the way.

Finally, the fight scene choreography is impressive, especially the scenes in which the ‘dwarves’ are fighting on accordion stilts.

Overall, while it may not be a very serious fantasy film, the clever writing, smart visuals, and sometimes cute character interactions, plus an outstanding performance in the lead, make Mirror, Mirror a fun one, especially as a date-movie.