The Brothers Grimm collected fairy tales and one of those they collected was the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, not to be confused with Snow White and Rose Red, a different tale entirely. It’s been made into a film before, most famously in the 1937 Disney animated version.
Director Tarsem Singh, working from an adaptation by Melissa Wallack and Jason Keller brings us Mirror, Mirror. It is a complete reimagination of the film, although many of the plot elements of the original version of the tale are present. Just not quite in the way you have grown to expect them, having seen the classic animated film and heard other tellings of the tale.
Lily Collins (The Blind Side) is Snow White, daughter of the King (Sean Bean, who is perfectly cast in this role) and his chosen successor. He adores his daughter and his kingdom is a happy one, where the villagers sing and dance to celebrate their wonderful lives. But as she grows, the King worries that he is not capable of teaching Snow White all she needs to know, and so he searches for a Queen to help him raise his precious child. His choice, Julia Roberts, seems inspired at first. Then tragedy takes place and the king disappears in the Dark Woods, never to be seen again.
For the next ten years, the evil Queen rules what is now her kingdom with an iron fist in a silk glove, keeping Snow White a virtual prisoner in her room. Then when Snow White turns 18, she strives to find out what is going on in the kingdom that she is supposed to one day rule, and runs afoul of the Evil Queen yet again.
She sneaks out of her room and out of the castle and finds that things are not what they once were. The village is in darkness, the people are hungry and taxed too heavily. No one knows what happened to her father and her own existence is mostly hidden from the people, with rumors about her too ugly to mention here. She returns to the castle, where the Queen is holding a ball and she decides to sneak into the ball.
There Snow White meets the Prince (Armie Hammer) for the second time (you’ll enjoy seeing their initial meeting more, without knowing what is to take place) and there are sparks of attraction flying. This isn’t good for Snow, as the Queen is in financial ruin and wants to court and marry the Prince herself, using his wealth to put her own financial affairs back into good order. It’s helpful that unlike another wealthy man who wants her hand in marriage, the Queen is strongly attracted to the very handsome prince. There is a confrontation between Snow and the Queen and the Queen instructs her right hand man, Brighton (Nathan Lane) to take her out into the dark woods and slay her. He does take her out there, but cannot bring himself to kill her, so he cuts the ropes that bind her and tells her to run.
She does and eventually comes to rest just outside the home of seven dwarves. They don’t have the same names as those in the traditional fairy tale. Instead they are Napoleon, Half Pint, Grub, Grimm, Wolf, Butcher and Chuckles, and rather than working in the mines, they are highwaymen and thieves. They are also highly skilled in the arts of combat and strategy and after they decide to take in the damsel in distress, they choose to instruct her in those skills.
A confrontation between Snow White and the Queen is inevitable, but what happens from here on in is best left to be viewed rather than be described. It will be much more fun that way. It also enables me to avoid telling you just how the plot devices from the original story like the poisoned apple, the kiss that breaks the magic spell and other such things are done differently here than in prior versions of the tale.
Singh, who I remembered from The Cell, does a good job helming this magical creation that blends its life-action special effects seamlessly with its clearly voiced storytelling. Roberts is very effective in portraying the Queen, who never feels remorse, no matter what transgressions she has engaged in to get what she wants. Collins gives a strong performance as the young woman whose coming of age occurs amidst more personal crises than most 18 year olds will ever face.
It’s a fun, entertaining ride.