Armie Hammer | Film | Julia Roberts | Nathaniel Rogers

Now Playing: 'Mirror Mirror'

Oh Snap! The 90s are back. It's Julia.



Once upon a time there lived a director with big canvas visual ideas. He would stretch them across just about any surface and start painting. Serial killer craziness (The Cell), muscle queen mythology (The Immortals), and uncategorizable period fantasy (The Fall) were all fair game. Any topic would do including a comic spin on Snow White because why the hell not? 

His name was Tarsem Singh or Tarsem or Tarsem Singh Dwandwar or Tarsem Dwandwar Singh because he could never settle on a signature. He would halfheartedly skim screenplays until inspiration struck. Once the spell was cast, he'd toss the script into the fire, chug absinthe, and speed dial Eiko Ishioka. He'd sketch until the last of the words had turned to ash and only his drawings remained*. The end. 

*not his real process.

Whether you live happily ever after from watching his movies depends on what you go to the movies for.



For instance, if you pronounce the words "style" with a sneer and "substance" with reverence in the same sentence you are not the target audience. But if you go to the movies for the images, you've already seen or should see his work  - even the weaker efforts like Mirror Mirror.

The Evil Queen (Julia Roberts) introduces us to Mirror Mirror with a gorgeous zoetrope spin as the movie begins, reminding us that cinema is storytelling. She warns us that it's her story and not the young princess's but the images that follow in a glorious animated prologue tell us otherwise. The Evil Queen finds Snow White completely irritating and since Snow is played by Lily Collins who can blame her?

Mirror-lovepotionThe comedy here is hit or miss with some of the anachronisms landing with a thud. At once point Prince Charming tells Snow he has to save her because the Prince saving the Princess has been 'focus group tested and audiences like it.' [Groan]. This modern winking wouldn't be a hindrance in a movie that wasn't so visually insane but here it's distracting. The prince and his valet really shouldn't be making jokes about how strange their outfits are. They are strange -- Julia is so immobile in hers that 75% of her performance is hand gesturing -- but it breaks the absurd spell.

Speaking of spells, the Prince is torn between the Queen and Snow White. He loves the young princess at first sight but the Queen has cast a love spell on him to win his heart. He's played by Armie Hammer and often shirtless, so you can't blame her. The love spell is good stupid fun both in the casting and the breaking. Mirror Mirror often comes up with clever reflections of the familiar tale rather than telling it straight but it undermines its own wit constantly by pointing out the revisionism in the bad "jokes" or dialogue. (If I ever watch it again, I'll turn the sound off.) The Queen sees herself in the magic mirror which is a nice twist on the typical portrayals but it's a slightly altered version of herself. The movie is like that, too -just a little bit off though it's trying hard to be "on": Everything cheap-looking is thisclose to looking rich; everything beautiful is teetering towards hideously gaudy.

Sadly, Mirror Mirror is the imaginative costume designer Eiko Ishioka's swan song. She died earlier this year. It's vaguely discomfiting then that Lily Collins wears an actual swan dress and delivers the closing song, an anachronistic Bollywood meets American dance song called "I Believe in Love." The lyrics are inane but Tarsem probably didn't read them. He was undoubtedly gagging over Eiko Ishioka's brilliant rethink of the traditional blue and yellow Disney dress Snow wears while singing it; it sure is something to look at.


Nathaniel Rogers would live in the movie theater but for the poor internet reception. He blogs daily at the Film Experience. Follow him on Twitter @nathanielr.

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  1. I bought my ticket as soon as I read, "Armie Hammer...shirtless"

    That's story enough for me.


    Posted by: Kile Ozier | Mar 31, 2012 9:14:59 PM

  2. "*not his real process." LOL. Thank you for clarifying!

    Posted by: MattS | Mar 31, 2012 10:16:58 PM

  3. Singh's movies are always visually stunning

    Posted by: say what | Mar 31, 2012 10:27:36 PM

  4. oh and I forgot to mention

    triping on acid while watching something by Singh is highly recommended

    Posted by: say what | Mar 31, 2012 10:29:56 PM

  5. It looks like Mr Tarsem is trying to be...whimsical. I cannot think of any area less suited to his heavy, portentous, empty, brazen and over-designed style than whimsy. He should do a sci-fi opera: a REAL sci-fi on a really alien world, like a modern version of one of the DUNE books. That would be right up his alley. Oh and he should get a scriptwriter to adopt a screenplay from an actual story by a real author, of course.

    Posted by: Steerpike | Apr 1, 2012 5:41:46 AM

  6. His films are visually stunning but in a stagey, fashion-show way. They never look like real world artifacts. Nothing looks practically useful or wearable. All those masks and billowing trains and mile-high collars. It's like an amazing themed ball.

    Posted by: Steerpike | Apr 1, 2012 5:43:59 AM

  7. Saw the film yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed it. Laughed when the above critic groaned and had a great time and had the rare experience of feeling I had received my money's worth. The only awkward moment was the usual 21st century cave-in to video gamesters with an attack by puppets that could be part of a fantasy video game. My score is a 95 out of 100 and the 5 point deduction is for caving to the video game demographic.

    Posted by: rapture | Apr 1, 2012 2:00:46 PM

  8. Movie is based on Gregory Maguire's novel, right?

    Author of Wicked ...

    Posted by: Glenn I | Apr 1, 2012 4:11:59 PM

  9. Can someone PLEASE tell me if there is a big catfight between Julia Roberts and Snow White? Do they roll around on the floor. Does Julia get slapped? What happens?!!!!

    Posted by: PLEASE!!! | Apr 1, 2012 4:16:39 PM

  10. "The Fall" is truly amazing.

    Posted by: RobWest | Apr 2, 2012 7:38:24 AM

  11. Saw this last week at a press screening and was surprised at the fact that I DIDN'T HATE IT. It looks downright awful from the trailer, but I found it to be visually stunning and all-around entertaining.

    It's Singh's attempt at a movie meant for children that can also be enjoyed by accompanying adults. I'd give it an A-.

    Posted by: Stephan | Apr 2, 2012 7:29:20 PM

  12. This looks like a really cool movie, will want to see that.

    Posted by: Andrew Superman | May 10, 2012 7:04:09 AM

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