Centuries from now, when historians are researching the downfall of western civilization, after they have the written volumes on war, income inequality, and violent crime, they will inevitably turn to our movies.
By Noah Gittell
Centuries from now, when historians are researching the downfall of western civilization, after they have the written volumes on war, income inequality, and violent crime, they will inevitably turn to our movies. They will note how hundreds of millions of dollars were spent on movies with no redeeming social value, movies that failed even to entertain the smallest portion of our population. They will shake their heads in wonder at a society that spends such huge amounts of money to produce terrible movies when significant portions of its population are struggling to find a job or earn a livable wage. These are the kind of thoughts that “Mirror, Mirror” inspire.
It is a waste of a film that fails on every conceivable level. Billed as a modern, irreverent take on “Snow White”, “Mirror, Mirror” changes very little of the fairy tale. Instead, it simply modernizes the dialogue into a series of self-referential quips. Quips can work in a comedy, but they have to either a) sound the way real people talk when they have a good rapport, or b) be funny. The screenwriters of “Mirror, Mirror” achieve neither of these goals.
In a movie that goes wrong in so many ways, it is hard to single out the most egregious failures, but most of the film’s problems stem from imbalance. The tone aims for somewhere between satire and fantasy, which by its very nature is a losing combination. Satire by definition requires a level of emotional detachment, whereas fantasy requires a major suspension of disbelief. The filmmakers of “Mirror, Mirror” are not even, however, attempting some bold amalgam of the two genres. Instead, they alternate them scene-by-scene, often even within the same scene.
None of the actors emerge from this mess unscathed. Lily Collins, while beautiful, is given precious little to do and barely registers as Snow White. Armie Hammer’s bland and unfunny performance as Prince Alcott dampens my expectations for his career, which was going quite well after his breakout performances in “The Social Network” and “J. Edgar”. Nathan Lane provides the movie’s few chuckles as a putupon aide to the Queen, but he’s instantly forgettable. The seven dwarves have several good moments and provide a bit of heart, though not nearly enough to save this sinking ship.
Julia Roberts, on the other hand, gives a performance so bad it had me questioning her entire career. While likeable in a few roles, could she ever really act? Maybe “Pretty Woman” and “Erin Brockovich” were just examples of good casting, and she has been fooling us ever since.
Hers is an awful performance. She plays the villain but, because she is also the lead character and our entry point into the story, tries to make her likeable and sympathetic. These are failures at the script level, but she does the audience no favors by mugging relentlessly, hitting her punch lines with all of the subtlety and grace of a UFC contender, and slipping in and out of a British accent that had me recalling Kevin Costner in “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves”.
It’s probably safe to say “Mirror, Mirror” wasn’t made for me or my 30 something demographic. As the credits rolled and I looked over in horror and contrition at the poor soul I had convinced to join me, half of the audience actually applauded. Although many were children, I silently took note that these children are the next generation, the ones we would be calling upon to solve the problems my generation is perpetuating. I weep for the future.
*My rating: Skip it altogether