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Mirror Mirror

Fox // PG // June 26, 2012
List Price: $39.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted July 5, 2012 | E-mail the Author
Well, I haven't gotten around to catching Snow White and the Huntsman quite yet, so if you're hoping for someone to tell you which of this spring's live-action reimaginings of Snow White is the fairest of them all,
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you're probably gonna have to turn elsewhere.

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 CharmingAlcott (Armie Hammer) as kind of a hapless dope. (...and he's frequently shirtless too, so there's that too, ladies.) I mean, you get your true love's kiss and your poisoned apple, but it's not even a little bit what you'd expect. I'm a sucker for meta, and Mirror Mirror has a smirking, self-aware sense of humor, every bit as plugged-in that it's a fairy tale as Shrek was a decade back.

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
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tossing in a little Time Bandits for good measure. Mirror Mirror loves a bunch of those instant classics you grew up watching on cable, trying to infuse that same sense of adventure, sparkling wit, stylish visual flair, and all-around cinematic magic and whimsy into the tried-and-true Snow White fairy tale. "Trying" is kind of the operative word here; everything about Mirror Mirror feels overly forced and labored. The effort is visible to the point that it's kinda uncomfortable to watch, especially since the slapstick sputters and stalls, the action doesn't get pulses racing so much, and the whole thing is kind of uninvolving and dull.

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,
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particularly some of the more vivid costumes throughout the third act, but otherwise, Mirror Mirror's hues are unusually subdued. The cinematography is also saddled with an overly digital look to it, and I can't help but think the warmth of film might've been a better fit here. I can't pretend to be all that much a fan of the look of Mirror Mirror, but I can say that its presentation on Blu-ray is technically flawless.

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.
  • Deleted Scenes (7 min.; HD): Six deleted and extended scenes have been piled onto this reel, including an extended opening, a botched magic trick, Nathan Lane's stooge raiding
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    the kitchen, and more of the Wicked Stepmother-slash-Queen trying to worm her way into Prince Alcott's heart.

  • Looking Through the Mirror (11 min.; HD): Mirror Mirror's making-of featurette revolves entirely around shaping the look of the film, from its direction to set design to costuming to extensive visual effects work.

  • I Believe I Can Dance (11 min.; HD): Want to learn the choreography behind the Bollywood-flavored musical number that plays over the end credits? Well, here you go!

  • Mirror Mirror Storybook (HD): Hey, Bart? Remember Mirror Mirror? It's back! In pogstorybook form! Yeah, it's exactly what it sounds like: stills from the movie with light animation sprinkled on top, paired with fairy tale-style narration.

  • Prince and Puppies (2 min.; HD): Armie Hammer needed to do all sorts of meticulous research to prep for the puppy love spell, and...ooooh! Look! Doggies!

  • Trailer (2 min.; HD): Last to bat is a two minute theatrical trailer.

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.
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