When the first trailer for this appeared online back in November it honestly looked pretty horrible. Director Tarsem Singh had just come off the successful opening of "Immortals" and then this comes rolling around in what looked to be a race to beat the more serious "Snow White & the Huntsmen" to theaters in June. While I initially had a horrible feeling about the film and a great hesitation to even see it, as the marketing campaign continued it seemed to get smarter in realizing the fact it did not need to compete with the other Snow White film coming out this year but instead what it needed to do was distinguish itself by showing what was valuable about the many different forms a story could take. In this case, both the darker version and this one aimed more at the younger crowds can both be taken with equal credibility. That is a hard thing to believe and I almost refused to believe it before sitting down and actually taking in what "Mirror Mirror" had to offer. Now, I don't think this is a great film by any means, but it isn't reaching for the stars either, it is simply trying to tell a fun tale that we all remember as an animated movie. It is what we would actually expect a live action version of the Disney film to be while "Snow White & The Huntsmen" likely skews closer to that of the Brothers Grimm tale. There is an audience for both and while I, as a 25 year-old, will probably enjoy the other version of this story more, I cannot say that "Mirror Mirror" fails to entertain its target audience.

The Evil Queen (Julia Roberts) and Prince Alcott
(Armie Hammer) attend the ball together.
It has been a long time since I have actually sat down to watch the Disney version of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' and to be honest, chunks of the story had escaped me. I still don't know if I recall all of it correctly but the other thing that surprised me about "Mirror Mirror" was the refreshing feel of familiarity that came with it while still carrying a good set of originality (mainly in its visuals and musical score). The story, as you may remember, focuses around princess Snow White who is played here by Lily Collins (The Blind Side and also Phil Collins daughter) and her stepmother, the evil Queen (Julia Roberts). Evil Queen Julia has sent the village she oversees into shambles only to request more tax money from them when a handsome, rich Prince arrives and she insists on throwing a party to win him over and convince him to marry her. Prince Alcott (a perfectly cast Armie Hammer) becomes interested in the beautiful princess instead, forcing the evil Queen to kill her off so she will  continue to be "the fairest of them all". We all know Snow doesn't die and instead meets up with the dwarfs in the woods and stages a rebellion against the Queen. Collins is certainly capable of the protagonist role here though seeming somewhat overwhelmed at times by the scope in which Singh is operating. The real star here though is Roberts. I have always kind of been hit and miss with the star, but here you can tell how much fun she is having, how much she is really enjoying herself playing the baddie. It comes through in her campy, yet poignant dialogue that is made up more of sarcastic quips than fully formed thoughts.

The seven dwarfs.
Director Singh is a master of visual storytelling and he again puts this on full display. In "Immortals" I was blown away by his ability to take something we have seen countless times before and give them little twists of strangeness that made them more original but more importantly made it feel different. Where "Immortals" failed was in the fact the story had nothing new to offer. This could be said about "Mirror Mirror" as well, seeing as we have seen the movie before, but I felt this aspect is actually where this movie had an advantage. The script doesn't take itself too seriously and instead relies heavily on the humor and intentional farcical tone. The color palette, which ranges from the solid whites and grays of the Castle to the stark colors of the Queens dresses to the Bollywood-inspired finale that is literally an explosion of bright colors fits this tone perfectly. The way it compliments one another meshes to form a very calculated type of self-awareness while still keeping the basic elements and themes of the story intact. Singh was also smart to focus on the dwarfs in his film, they provide the majority of the fun here and are at the core of why children will love the film. They were always the characters that stood out in the animated version, that didn't necessarily stick to any archetype, but instead brought real inspiration to the audience and lead characters to fight for what they knew was right.

Snow White (Lily Collins) and Prince Alcott hide from the
monster the Evil Queen has hiding in the woods.
Even with the somewhat disappointing "The Lorax" hitting theaters earlier this month, it has been a good while since a full-fledged, fun family film has hit the cineplexes. That is the charm of this movie that will keep the kiddies entertained all the way through while providing plenty of good appealing moments to the adults that will be taking them to see it. Singh even throws in a musical number at the end that is sung by Collins herself and really exposes the importance of why his films so heavily rely on their style. "Mirror Mirror" is a feast for the eyes and is a pleasant diversion from everything else that is in theaters at the moment. There is not much substance to delve into when it comes to this project as we all know the story and the director and his team don't focus on too much on developing themes or making some kind of metaphor to our real world. No, this is simple, basic fun and should be celebrated for being just that in a time where studios are constantly trying to tell the dark, brooding side of things. I didn't expect to like "Mirror Mirror" much less enjoy it, but I did and I hope the crowds give it a fair chance as it certainly deserves it.

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