*1/2 (out of four)
As enchanting as an insurance commercial, “Mirror Mirror” filters the brothers Grimm’s “Snow White” fairy tale through a heavy coating of silly. As in, palace-guards-talk-about-pinky-swearing, the-queen-requests-a-bird-poop-facial-mask silly.
The joke wears out almost immediately (and will surely be forgotten when the superior-looking “Snow White and the Huntsman” opens in June). As the vain, evil Queen who wants her beautiful stepdaughter Snow White (Lily Collins, underwhelming) dead, Julia Roberts comes off as annoyingly childish rather than nasty. Even Disney’s 1937 animated “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” let the villain be scary; now she’s just a bitter woman who should appreciate her well-maintained looks rather than worry about the oppressed girl whose eyebrows could use some thinning.
Broke and lonely, the queen needs to marry somebody rich before her crow’s feet sprout legs. So she targets a handsome prince (Armie Hammer) while her attempt to dispose of Snow White lands the young girl in the care of seven charming dwarves. Actually, no, they used to be charming. Now they have names like Wolf and Butcher and specialize in robbing people in the woods.
Fancying itself far cleverer than it is, “Mirror Mirror” finds humor in the prince being kicked in the head by a horse and a crack about a grasshopper raping a man who’s been turned into a cockroach. Also depressing: One of the dwarves falls for Snow White, but his interest receives virtually no recognition. In this close-minded kingdom, love exists primarily for the lovely girl and the dopey, good-looking prince (poor Hammer for having to pretend to be a puppy), as if beauty remains paramount above all. That’s what the Queen thinks, but Snow White’s smug closing remarks to her enemy suggest she feels the same.
Known only for his visual wizardry, director Tarsem Singh (“Immortals”) delivers but two fun sight gags: The Queen bossing around human board game pieces and the dwarves utilizing accordion-like pants to stand taller and intimidate foes. Otherwise, CGI effects look as awkward as a baker (Mare Winningham) sounds when creepily telling Snow White that her 18th birthday is the most important birthday of them all. Why, has someone set up a website counting down until she's legal?
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