There’s a good chance a sampling of people asked about the legend of Snow White would recite the songs and names of dwarves from the 1937 Disney animated feature. However this tale of a wicked queen and poison apple dates back long before Walt’s adaptation, and that makes it ripe for the retelling.
In the live-action version Mirror Mirror, the wicked queen of the land (Julia Roberts) is broke and the only way she can see to fix the problem is to squeeze more taxes out of her already impoverished subjects… or find a rich suitor. When the handsome Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) passes through the kingdom, the ruler figures her financial problems are solved (with added benefits).
However what she doesn’t know is that her stepdaughter Snow White (Lily Collins) has wandered out of the castle for the first time since the death of her father. It’s her 18th birthday and during her inaugural venture into the woods, she happens to meet Prince Alcott. Needless to say the foreigner is more attracted to the young princess than the desperate older monarch. Sensing she is losing her royal opportunity, the Queen summons her assistant Brighton (Nathan Lane) to take Miss White for a fatal walk in the forest. However his soft heart gets the better of him, so he releases her instead, telling her never to return.
Yes, the banished maiden does bump into seven height challenged men who, in this script, make a living using less than honorable methods. But the dwarves association with the endearing princess makes them better people and Snow White learns some basic self-defense moves that increase her own confidence.
It’s difficult to pinpoint what age range this story is trying to appeal to. Slapstick violence abounds, yet the confrontations become more serious in a rather frightening scene where magic puppets are used to attack the little people in their home. Fortunately sexual content and language are sparse—although the queen often lusts over the frequently shirtless Prince Alcott. A couple of other veiled moments of innuendo are heard as well.
Strangely awkward throughout, the brightest spots in this movie are the costumes and art design. Nathan Lane’s unabashed performance also goes a long ways to save this flailing film. Without this, adults may be bored, young children might be scared and those few left in-between would be only mildly amused.