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The blandest of them all: “Mirror, Mirror”

March 19, 2012

What the hell, Universe? Two Tarsem movies in less than six months? What did I do to deserve this? I’m a decent guy. I’m way better than a lot of people. I’m way better than that Kony dude. I daresay I’m even better than the guy who made the viral video about that Kony dude, who got picked up for clearing the snorkel in public. I do that on my balcony where the only people who can see me are the ones who really put in the effort. Crap, well, here we are: Another Tarsem Singh-directed movie. Because when you’re making an updated fairy tale for the whole family, the best guy to direct it is someone known for creating disturbing imagery and intense, graphic violence. That’s some good producing right there.

Okay, so do I have to run through the plot with you? I suspect not, since we all pretty much know the story. Snow White’s evil stepmother, despairing over losing her looks and jealous of her hottie stepdaughter, casts said stepdaughter into the wilderness where she meets seven dwarves. Wackiness ensues. This movie follows the same general playbook, but expands on some things and tweaks a few others.   Oh yeah, and it also got a 100% meta-joke update, as various characters comment on the story occurring around them.

In the '90s she was considered hot (don't judge us too harshly, kids).

The main difference in this story is that the seven dwarves aren’t miners or construction workers (or whatever they were in the Disney version), but instead are bandits that roam the artfully-designed woodland sets on enormous accordion stilts. They look like the kind of thing Terry Gilliam would doodle on a pizza-stained napkin, while waiting his turn to bowl. After she banished from the kingdom for pissing off the Queen (Julia Roberts), Snow White (Lily Collins) is rescued by the dwarves and soon joins them on their raids as their token normal-sized member.

Unfortunately for the Evil Queen, her lavish lifestyle and expensive beauty treatments have bankrupted the kingdom, so she maneuvers the dim Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) from a wealthy kingdom into marrying her. Snow White—who met the Prince at a batshit-crazy palace party in which everyone dresses as animals—naturally wants to prevent that from happening and expose the Queen’s villainy to the prince. She also returns the excessive taxes the Queen has levied on the impoverished people. So, I guess the political reading of this would be: Evil Queen=Obama; Snow White=Sarah Palin; Seven Dwarves=Fox News personalities; and Prince Alcott=um, Ron Paul, maybe? Herman Cain?

Amazingly, the Bjork-hat is not the most baffling thing in this movie.

Aside from a little rejiggering of the plot, the big change in this movie is the post-modernistic, metafictional jibes that seem to have been dropped into the script like those shrink-wrapped bundles of cash we used to drop in Afghanistan for the guys fighting the Taliban. Roberts has most of the acidic lines commenting on the pretentiousness of the name “Snow White,” and the fiscal irresponsibility of the villagers who used to dance all day long. The Prince has a decent line near the end about how Snow White should let him save the day, since it’s a serviceable plot that’s been “Focus grouped and everything.” For their part, the dwarves basically just banter and bicker like they’re in a sitcom. This was a lot funnier when Shrek did it over a decade ago.

And then we get to my nemesis: director Tarsem Singh. Singh–who goes by the face-punchingly pretentious monomoniker “Tarsem”–isn’t sure how to do much of anything in his movies. I’m sorry, but this guy makes fucking terrible movies. Consider his track record: The Cell; The Fall; Immortals and now this. Yeah, the guy’s films are incredibly distinctive visually, but they have absolutely nothing else going for them! In M2, he rips off the hyper-artificial winter fairy-tale land from Burton’s Sleepy Hollow, but he has no idea what to do with his actors, how to get decent performance out of them, or even how to move them around on his, like, three sets.

"What am I doing here? Seriously why am I in this movie?"

Consequently, any given scene is only as successful as the actors in it. Roberts generally gets off okay, basically vamping around and being bitchy to a suitably-satisfying Nathan Lane (Roberts and Lane are also the only two actors who seem to have any comedic timing, while everyone else falls prey to Tarsem’s complete ignorance of pacing). But poor Hammer is completely adrift, acting frantically and trying to understand what tone he should be going for.

Lily Collins "acting"...

But the true sucking black hole in this movie is Lily Collins’ simply atrocious performance as Snow White. Wait, did I say “performance”? No, see, that implies she did something other than stand stiffly and recite dialogue in a wooden, largely-inflectionless tone. Holy crap, she is bad. I can’t put into words how bad she is. If she was cast in a Twilight movie, the other actors would make fun of her. Even Taylor Lautner. Taylor Lautner! I don’t know why they even bothered to cast her in this. They could have replaced her with a life-sized Mold-o-Rama figure and gotten a comparable performance.

Lilly Collins "acting"...

Finally, this movie features two amazing Did I just Effing See that? moments. The first comes when Roberts’ Evil Queen undergoes her beauty regimen. It begins with sparrow crap being slathered on her face, but as your brain is processing the fact that Oscar-winning actress Julia Roberts is letting people smear birdshit on her face, we get a series of quick-cuts of gross stuff and icky creatures like maggots and grubs being applied to her naked body. It happens pretty quickly, but I’m pretty sure it’s suggested that a scorpion is put in her cooch.

Lily Collins "acting"...

The second takes us into closing credits, when Snow White, after dispatching the Evil Queen (spoiler?) stares at the assembled wedding party queerly, then unexpectedly busts into an updated version of Iranian singer Googoosh’s “I Believe in Love.” Eventually, everyone joins her for a Bollywood-style dance number, but not before they break character and look around the set as if to say, “Is she having a stroke?” Also, the heavily-Autotuned voice coming out of Collins’ mouth sounds nothing like her normal speaking voice. Nice touch, that.

The only surprising thing about Mirror, Mirror is that it does nothing to soften the cruel edge of the fairy tale, which is, essentially, if you are not young and white you have no worth. It’s almost shocking how ageist and racist the message is, but then again, that’s pretty much Hollywood’s mission statement, isn’t it?

Just stop it. Stop trying...can't you see that you're hideous?

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