Please, please don’t waste money on Mirror Mirror

Last summer I wrote about the “Snow White war” going on between Universal, home of Snow White and the Huntsman and Relativity, home of Mirror Mirror. At the time, I said it was bad for movies because both studios were rushing their projects in an effort to one-up each other, and that while Universal was running the risk of shortchanging a first-time features director, Relativity was making the bigger mistake as they were pushing so hard in an effort to get into theaters first that there was no way making a good movie was their top priority. It was purely about beating Universal. And guess what? I was right—Relativity’s end product, while in theaters first, is not good. Mirror Mirror is terrible and the “Snow White war” turned out to be bad for movies. And, for bad movies.

While much of Cinesnark exists simply as a means of entertaining myself, I do have the goal of trying to help people decide how to spend their entertainment dollars wisely. I’ve said it before and it bears repeating—movie-going has gotten to be an expensive proposition, too expensive to blunder into a theater blindly, having no idea what is most worth your time and money. I make some effort to put out enough information to help people decide how to spend their money, and in the name of wise movie-spending, I am BEGGING you not to see Mirror Mirror. We cannot award such shitty filmmaking with our dollars. It only encourages more shitty filmmaking. It’s one thing when everyone puts everything they’ve got into a movie and it comes out crappy anyway—in fact, those types of movies can be amazing in their own right—but it’s something else entirely when no one was even trying to make a worthwhile movie in the first place. And no one on Mirror Mirror was trying, except for the guys who played the dwarves, and I felt awful for them because they got some truly terrible material to work with.

Let’s start with what was good about Mirror Mirror. There was really only one thing—the visuals. Director Tarsem Singh (Immortals, The Cell) is known for his stunning visuals, which I have greatly admired in the past, and after the surprisingly dingy Immortals, he’s back on form with Mirror Mirror. The colors are bright and acid trippy, the costumes are elaborate, and various aesthetic influences are brought together in a way that is surprising and pleasing to the eye. Production designer Tom Foden’s (Immortals, The Cell) sets are rich in texture and, for the most part, are neutral in color. They perfectly set off the costumes of Eiko Ishioka, Tarsem’s collaborator who, sadly, died earlier this year. Ishioka’s costumes are the single most worthwhile aspect of Mirror Mirror, borrowing from Elizabethan and Georgian fashions and imbuing a sense of whimsy and impracticality into each piece. Tarsem and his crew have created a world that, while detailed and rich, feels distinctly false. We’re aware at every moment that this is an elaborate stage, and it’s not a bad feeling. It makes me want to see a Shakespeare play as staged by Tarsem.

So now that I’ve said something nice about Mirror Mirror, let’s talk about what was awful about the movie, which is absolutely everything else. First and foremost, the script is shit. You know that scene in Jurassic Park when Laura Dern is up to her elbows in a giant mountain of dinosaur poo? Yeah, that’s pretty much what watching Mirror Mirror is like: being up to your elbows in a giant mountain of dinosaur poo. The movie makes little narrative sense—there’s no clear motivation for Snow White to run away from the evil queen, she just runs away in a fit of pique. And the “evil” queen’s motivations are that her wild spending has driven her kingdom to the brink of poverty. Somewhere in there, there’s a topical kernel that could have been spun into a fresh take on the classic fairy tale, but here it’s buried under directionless storytelling and Three Stooges-style sight gags. And whatever you do, especially if you have a daughter/niece/younger sister and are being won over by the “this time the princess is the savior” selling point—DO NOT BUY IT. This Snow White is NOT a good example of strong femininity. In the end, the big solution to the kingdom’s problems, the way Snow saves the day, is to marry the dopey prince whose only value is judged by his handsomeness and wealth. It’s a TERRIBLE ending that flies directly in the face of what this revitalized fairy tale trend is supposed to be about, which is reinventing these traditionally passive heroines as strong female role models. THIS IS NOT THAT MOVIE.

The second biggest problem is Tarsem’s direction. I’ve never thought of him as a storyteller, really, but at his best he manages to string together his wild visuals into an interesting array. Not so here. Depending on the day of the week, Tarsem either doesn’t care about scripting or it’s all the writers’ fault that his movies suck, but either way, he makes no effort to overcome this shallow script with a flair for storytelling. Quite the opposite, in fact. Instead of trying to elevate the material he takes it out back and beats it to death with a blunt shovel behind the woodshed. The pacing is simply atrocious—the entire second act moves so slowly it’s like it’s been filtered through molasses, and the final half-hour had me contemplating gnawing off my own hand in order to escape. And Tarsem totally fails to get anything resembling a proper performance from any of his actors. I’ve never really thought of Tarsem as an “actor’s director”, but I’ve also never thought of his movies as featuring such spectacularly bad acting, either. But Mirror Mirror has forever changed that and now I don’t think Tarsem should be allowed to direct movies on his own. He needs a co-director to handle the scripting and acting aspects of moviemaking so he can focus on the visual.

Speaking of the acting, let’s talk about that. Everyone blew massive chunks. Julia Roberts stars as the not-so-much-evil-as-just-kind-of-bitchy-like-the-queen-bee-in-high-school queen, Armie Hammer (J. Edgar, The Social Network) debases himself in ways previously only seen in amateur pornography, Lily Collins (Abduction) proves that while pretty as a pretty thing can be, she has all the presence of a cardboard box, and Nathan Lane must have lost a bet because there is no other explanation for his participation in this mess. Roberts phones it in from start to finish, never fully engaging with her character or anyone else’s, and at points, you can actually see the dollar signs flashing in her eyes. I was most embarrassed for Hammer, who has done very good work in the last couple years and should be better than this. He, too, phones it in, but he also has the worst character with the worst dialogue and scenarios. At the point that he’s licking the queen’s face because she’s dosed him with “puppy love” potion I could barely watch. It was physically painful, how embarrassed I was. And as for Collins, she gives it the ole college try, and she looks perfectly lovely as Snow White, but there’s no there there. At no point does she succeed in making me care about Snow, except to pray for this godawful movie to be over.

So please, PLEASE, believe me when I say that Mirror Mirror is not worth your time and certainly not your money. If you’re a parent or are otherwise in charge of a tiny human person, and you want to take them to the movies, please wait for The Pirates! Band of Misfits, which comes out in a few weeks and is actually funny, charming, and worth the expense of a trip to the movies. I’m begging you. Do not reward Relativity for this jackass movie.

14 Responses to “Please, please don’t waste money on Mirror Mirror”

  1. yikes…..I guess I’ll scrap those plans to take my six year old. lol I thought it looked pretty bad, but you make it sound like torture.

    • It’s pretty inexcusable. But I can’t stress enough how incredibly worthwhile The Pirates! Band of Misfits is. It comes out 4/27. Go see that–your kid will love it and it won’t make you want to stab your own eyeballs with a fork.

  2. Based on the trailers I saw Mirror Mirror looked pretty awful, and after reading this review I definitely wont be paying to see it hahah…I’ll wait for Snow White and the Huntsman. It looked like a much more interesting Snow White adaptation to me.

  3. Random thoughts:
    Tarsem has always been overrated. His visuals have never stood up next to Kubrick or Fellini’s masterpieces. He is better compared to Tim Burton, who has the Johnny Depp advantage. Yes, that is still an advantage. I can’t believe how many people are just NOW complaining about him being weird and dirty. Anyway, Tarsem could benefit from a co-director, but his ego would never that will never happen. Jennifer Aniston is more likely to make a Tv movie with Lindsay Lohan and Jennifer love Hewitt. Justin Timberlake is more likely to go on a reunion tour with ‘Nsync. He will never take that backward step. No “name” director would. The only success full director teams I can think of are one the started out that way like, the Cohen brother and the Matrix dudes ( didn’t one of the turn into a women).

  4. Don’t get me wrong, I never had any intention of seeing the movie – but how is the 50% on Rotten Tomatoes explained? Based on the trailer (and this review), I figured this movie would be in Gigli territory with critical success.

    • Tarsem gets a lot of leeway because his visuals are so crazy good. But like…I’m sick of it. Sure, his movies look great but they’ve gotten progressively worse and instead of owning up to his shortcomings as a director, he blames the writers, the people who cut the trailers–basically, anyone other than himself. That’s obnoxious.

  5. My son & I already made plans to see SWATH. But I am writing you to thank you for your recommendation of ATTACK THE BLOCK.

    It was awesome. I loved it. My son laughed his head off. And my husband was talking about it the next day.

    So thank you. I prolly wouldn’t have picked it up at Blockbuster’s if you haven’t mentioned it time and again.

  6. Jeannine Says:

    Damn, wish I had read this before spending $40 on tickets and $5mil on snacks. It was indeed dreadful. Loved the costumes but everything else, just silly and worthless. Was happy to hear my 13 year old was disappointed by everything about the film, esp. the acting and script.

  7. I’m still confused as to why you threw out Singh’s name as a possible good match for Catching Fire…If he can’t even handle Snow White, how can we trust him with Katniss?

  8. Wish I’d read this before I took my 11 yo niece to see it last Friday. It was not enjoyable for me, but she liked it. Of course, most kids that age like almost any movie.

  9. Sad to see this crap made it to the big screen :( Says:

    Bad cast, hideous dresses and yes, a big disappointment. I didn’t waste time or money on this, my mum wanted to see it but i said “well don’t expect anything good from it, you can go see it, but i’d rather watch grass grow”. I read the spoiler plot and i was almost in tears seeing what they’d done to my favorite story (which i know like the back of my hand), it doesn’t relate to the story at all, aside from the magic mirror and the queen ruining the happiness between Daddy and his little girl, but all evil stepmothers in fairy tales did this. The trailers looked awful, not funny, full of bitching, both the queen and Snow White look like they belong on “Mean Girls” with their “plastic-fantastic” attitudes and nasty smirks. If they’d stuck with Saoirse Ronan for their Snow White, i would have taken an interest, coz she’s at least a good actress and would fit the part great if she just had black hair, but Lily Collins looks sad with the badly dyed hair (which wasn’t even dyed black in most scenes) and she loves her tan too much, and i don’t recall Snow White ever having a tan, or awful eyebrows!!!! Don’t get me wrong, she’s pretty, but looks like she had a bad makeover in this film. Poor dear was miscast, and didn’t even get to play the part properly when she was looking forward to it! And Julia Roberts is a bad choice, she’s not villain material. Very sad to see my childhood hero ruined by 2 silly girls (very upset with “S.W.A.T.H. aswell) and a bad plot, wish these directors had chosen another princess to pick on! All the same, i still adore Snow White, i just hate what those 2 movies have done, so i won’t let them ruin my favorite story or princess, Ginnifer Goodwin is the saving grace Snow White, she looks so beautiful, she’s a great actress and fit for the part! Lana Parilla is the best evil queen too, she gives audiences the shivers, and she’s got the charachter down pat! “Once Upon a Time” did the fairytales first, and they did it best! Now i beg Hollywood, do it properly, or don’t do it at all!

  10. [...] thinks rape makes an acceptable fantasy; likewise, Tarsem Singh has never become this guy because he doesn’t give a shit about storytelling. But now it’s Rupert Sanders’, best known for a series of head-turning commercials for Xbox’s [...]

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