There are a few reasons a Broadway lover might be interested in Mirror Mirror, a family-friendly comedy that is more Brothers Grimm than it is Disney. First, Nathan Lane steals the show on more than one occasion, which is no small feat next to Julia Roberts shining as the overly-confident, Evil Queen in one of the best casting decisions of the year (so far). There’s an original score by Alan Menkin which manages to support the film beautifully without sucking us back to Disneyland and then there’s the whole issue of that OTHER Snow White movie set to be released this year. Remember the year of WILD PARTY?
And there’s a lot for families to enjoy. This movie goes on my short list of films you can enjoy with your children. In fact, I would see it without my kids if need be, and I would recommend it for adults who don’t have kids. But if you have a daughter over five, she’ll benefit from seeing a Snow White who isn’t a two-dimensional princess but an action hero in training who refuses to be the damsel in distress. Kids will get a kick out of the self-deprecating shenanigans displayed by the seven dwarfs, who are presented as real, evolved recluses surviving as a posse of bandits and not the caricatures that little people so often are portrayed as. In fact, they take butt-kicking to a whole other level and personify a theme that is constant throughout the film: You are only as weak as you allow others see you to be.
For parents it’s humorous without being pandering and visually stunning in a style that mixes director Tarsem Singh’s Indian roots with an almost Tim Burtonesque tone. (Wait through the credits for an homage to Bollywood that the kids will really enjoy). For those of you who like me count themselves members of the St. Elmo’s Fire generation, the feature by Mare Winningham is a delight and for those who love the classics, try to spot how many times Snow White (played by Lily Collins) looks exactly like Audrey Hepburn.
While the film captivated my eight-year-old daughter and her friend, I enjoyed looking for traces of the Snow White fairy tale I studied in college. Originally, fairy tales were intended for adults and the nineteenth century printings of “Little Snow White” by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm are no exception, using enchanting metaphors to explore Oedipal themes and sexual innuendo. These themes are recognizable enough to elevate most of the Grimm Brothers’ tales to the level of collective fantasy…and record box office numbers for Disney. In short, if you can make a theme park ride about it, the metaphors are universally familiar.
The mirror, normally used as a symbol for self realization or one’s inner voice, can also indicate the threshold between the conscious and the unconscious, and that is what this film shows us visually as the Queen dives through a liquid mirror to the recesses of her own ego…which happen to be stunning Tahitian huts built on stilts over reflective water. Discuss amongst yourselves. There, she goes inside herself to discover the dark secrets of her own soul, and unfortunately for her, a bend towards self-sabotage that is ultimately her own undoing.
All this, and the two eight year-olds sitting next to me had fun. THIS is what I’m talking about when I say I’m in the market for entertainment that serves parents and kids alike. I have a feeling that MIRROR MIRROR is going to be the Godspell and SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN will be the JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR of Snow White movies this year.
This movie is rated PG and runs 95 minutes. I recommend it for ages 6 and up. Parents should be aware of some mild violence and short, scary moments.
Opens Friday, March 30. With Julia Roberts, Lily Collins, Armie Hammer, Nathan Lane, Sean Bean, Mare Winningham, Michael Lerner, Mark Povinelli, Jordan Prentice, Danny Woodburn, Sebastian Saraceno, Ronald Lee Clark, Martin Klebba, Joe Gnoffo, Robert Emms. Directed by Tarsem Singh, Written by Marc Klein, and Jason Keller, based on a screen story by Melisa Wallack. With music by Alan Menken and Costume design by the late Eiko Ishioka.
Disclosure: I was given complimentary tickets to facilitate this post, but all opinions are my own.