Really, though, with a visionary filmmaker like Tarsem at the helm, you'd think "who's the fairest?" wouldn't be all that much of a contest. Unfortunately, it's not the visually entrancing director of The Fall at work here; you're lookin' at the anonymous, wholly uninteresting hired gun behind Immortals. Dragged down by a clunky script, a glacial pace, double-digit-IQ slapstick, and a gaping void of the visual mastery that made even such dreck as Tarsem's The Cell astonishingly watchable, Mirror Mirror really doesn't have much of anything going for it.
Ack! I really want to like Mirror Mirror too. Lily Collins is everything I'd want to see in a Disney princess come to life: sweet, charming, and impossibly beautiful. Something about those eyebrows makes comparisons to Jennifer Connelly in Labyrinth more than a little bit unavoidable too. Julia Roberts is having such a blast vamping it up as a lovelorn, hopelessly vain, power-mad queen that it's kind of infectious. I appreciate the way that Mirror Mirror winks at a bunch of the usual fairy tale tropes, casting Snow White as a sword-slinging bad-ass, the dwarves as thieving outcasts, and Prince
The frustrating thing is that Mirror Mirror has its heart in the right place. I mean, the movie's practically a Valentine to the likes of Labyrinth, The Princess Bride, and -- oh, why not? -- even
Mirror Mirror doesn't even deliver the sort of dazzling visuals I'd expect to see in a film with Tarsem's name on the marquee, at least not consistently. In stark contrast to the bright, colorful poster art, Mirror Mirror's palette tends to skew subdued and undersaturated. The cinematography is unusually flat. The digital effects rarely blend in convincingly with anything around them, and the sets look like...well, sets, so artificial that if the camera were to pan over another a foot and a half, you'd expect to see a stack of plywood and a grip munching on a cheese sandwich. What I'm getting at is that Mirror Mirror does everything in its power to prevent viewers from escaping into the world it's created. There are very few traces of that magic or awe that define the '80s fantasies that have so clearly inspired Mirror Mirror. I mean, the stop-motion-inspired animated flashback is a knockout. There's the most demented makeover this side of Brazil that got a couple good cackles out of me. A swordfight with oversized, dancing marionettes is easily the single best scene in the flick. Everything else, though...? Most of Mirror Mirror plays like a bunch of homages lazily stapled together rather than a proper film. It's too busy reminding you of far better movies you already know and love to stand all that well on its own.
Discover The Fall, if you haven't already. Dust Ella Enchanted off the shelf. Introduce the kids to Labyrinth or The Princess Bride. As much as I want to fawn all over Mirror Mirror, I think I'd leave this one in the glass coffin and live happily ever after with some other live-action fairy tale instead. Skip It.
Mirror Mirror is crisply rendered and wonderfully detailed, to the point where it kinda works against the movie, highlighting the seams in the visual effects and the distracting staginess of the sets. I'd have expected a film like this to be bright and candy-colored, but instead, the palette has most of the life sucked out of it, looking more like a faded, yellowing storybook than anything else. There are occasional bursts of color,
The high bitrate AVC encode for Mirror Mirror is given plenty of room to stretch out, spanning both layers of this BD-50 disc. The presentation is very lightly letterboxed to preserve Mirror Mirror's theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1.
Mirror Mirror is packing a lively and reasonably effective six-channel, 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. The lower frequencies are tight and punchy, and there are plenty of effects bounding around in the surround channels. Bursts of magic and the sinister beast also have a tendency to skitter across the entire soundscape. The film's dialogue is balanced well in the mix, although there is some light clipping in a handful of more loudly shouted lines, something I'm not all that used to hearing out of shiny, new movies. That's a minor annoyance at worst, though, for whatever that's worth. Generally a very solid effort.
No dubs, alternate mixes, or audio commentaries this time around; the lossless English track is the beginning and end of it. Meanwhile, subtitles are limited to English (SDH) and Spanish.
Annoyingly, there's a loud POP! after each of the extras finishes up and I'm dumped back to the main menu. At least that's how it goes on my PS3, so...buyer (or home theater receiver?) beware.
Mirror Mirror boasts a very striking lenticular-animated cover, although bizarrely enough, the card is tacked onto the wrong side of the shrinkwrap. When you tear off the wrap, you're chucking out the coolest part of the packaging as well. I peeled the card off the shrinkwrap and slapped it onto the front of the case, so it's not as if it were a loss, but I'm pretty sure I've never stumbled across anything like that before. Oh, and the other disc in the set doubles as a DVD and digital copy of Mirror Mirror.
The Final Word
Mirror Mirror desperately wants to be this generation's Labyrinth or this generation's The Princess Bride. Instead, it's more like this generation's Stardust, and in case you haven't slogged your way through that...well, that's not meant to be taken as a compliment so much. I really, really want to like Mirror Mirror, but it's a turgid, uninvolving, laughless, and -- most disappointingly, considering who's perched in the director's chair -- visually flat more often than not.
Tarsem latched onto whatever TV commercial gigs he needed to help bring The Fall to life over the course of however many years. Fingers crossed that the one-two punch of Immortals and Mirror Mirror is Tarsem collecting another couple of paychecks to fund his next passion project 'cause at the end of the day, that's all they're really good for. Skip It.