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(2012) (Julia Roberts, Lily Collins) (PG)

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Fantasy: Snow White must reclaim her family's kingdom from an evil stepmother with the help of seven dwarfs and a dashing prince.
Snow White (LILY COLLINS) has essentially been a prisoner in her own kingdom since she was a little girl and her widowed king father went missing shortly after marrying the Evil Queen (JULIA ROBERTS). For years, she has been cared for only by loyal servant Margaret (MARE WINNINGHAM) and the scared staff of the castle. The Queen, envious of Snow White's beauty and disgusted by her goodness, keeps the 18-year-old girl confined in her bedroom away from the starving, suffering masses while she rules with complete indifference.

But The Queen has spent too freely and lived carelessly too long. When the dashing Prince Alcott (ARMIE HAMMER) comes for a visit and tells her stories of the great wealth and prosperity his land enjoys, she immediately schemes to marry him. One problem. He has already gotten a look at Snow White and has fallen in love with her.

When The Queen orders Snow White taken from the castle and killed, her loyal subject Brighton (NATHAN LANE) can't bring himself to do it. He frees the girl and tells her to run and never stop running. Snow White, though, falls in with seven thieving dwarfs (JORDAN PRENTICE, MARK POVINELLI, JOE GNOFFO, DANNY WOODBURN, SEBASTIAN SARACENO, MARTIN KLEBBA, and RONALD LEE CLARK) and together they hatch a plan to take back her kingdom and restore the land.

OUR TAKE: 3.5 out of 10
The new "Mirror Mirror" is your classic case of "Let's throw a lot of stuff at the wall and see what sticks" style of filmmaking by committee that I just loathe. I don't know much about the history of this production, but I'll bet it went through a bunch of screenwriters. Or maybe it was just one screenwriter with multiple personalities. Either way, the film is all over the map...and not in a good way.

The original appears to be a "Wicked" version of the "Snow White" fable, told from the perspective of the evil Queen character. That could have been good, vampy fun had all concerned stuck to and committed to that angle. The whole legend seemed poised for a makeover, with the dwarfs being transformed from a group of seven blue-collar worker-bees to a band of scrappy, cynical thieves angry that the world looks down on them both literally and figuratively.

But somewhere along the way, focus groups or the studio research department or the Hollywood marketing gurus seem to have gotten involved and talked director Tarsem Singh into shifting the focus as the film goes on to the Snow White (Lily Collins) character and her romance with the dashing Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer). Sweet Caviezel, we've seen THAT story a million times! They're boring as all get-out. Snow White is virtuous and goodness and light. Prince Alcott is handsome and brave and upright. No attempt was made to spin them for comedy.

In fact, the comedy elements that work fairly well early almost completely disappear in the film's third act, and the story becomes all about stopping a wedding and slaying a beast too scary for the very young princes and princesses in the audience. In the words of "A Mighty Wind's" Fred Willard: "Wha' happened?!"

Roberts indeed stars as The Queen, a particularly bitter woman who hates Snow White, who hates the people she rules, who hates the people on her royal staff, and has spent way too much and is now almost broke. She wants to sink her claws into the rich Prince Alcott, but he has already got a look at The Queen's stepdaughter Snow White and has fallen in love. Snow White is eventually cast out of the castle and ordered executed, but is spared by The Queen's Bert Lahr-like servant, Brighton (Nathan Lane, way over-acting as...well, Nathan Lane). She eventually joins forces with the seven dwarfs and seeks to reclaim her family throne.

In addition to the scatter-shot script and direction, another big problem I had with "Mirror Mirror" is I just never BELIEVED it. The sets all look like sets. The special effects are not very special. And no one is really being their characters. They're all playing these people. Julia Roberts has great fun in the role. But she's never once menacing. And she always seems to be on the verge of breaking out into that braying horse laugh of hers at the silliness of it all. There's also a really weird scene - probably the weirdest of her career - where, as part of a makeover, she is smeared with bird poop (!) and live worms and stung repeatedly by bees and a scorpion. The scene climaxes with gloppy mud being dumped on her from head to toe from above.

There are other "Huh?" moments spread throughout, likely the result of dueling script drafts. During a swordfight sequence between Snow White and the Prince, for instance, he actually spanks her a few times with the dull part of his blade. Characters are introduced early on like Michael Lerner's Baron, Mare Winningham's palace baker, and Robert Emms' princely traveling companion and are largely jettisoned and forgotten after the first act.

It's all a mess, and not very fun. This is one movie that didn't cast a spell on me at all. I give it a 3.5 out of 10. (T. Durgin)

Reviewed March 28, 2012 / Posted March 30, 2012

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