Why the sudden fascination with Snow White?
On television, the Snow White-fueled "Once Upon a Time" has garnered big ratings. In theaters, not one, but two versions of the fairy tale are being released.
The first is "Mirror Mirror," an amiable reimagining of the story, which should please most children but will likely leave their parents unimpressed.
This Snow White is ostensibly pushed to the background by the evil queen, played with campy glee by Julia Roberts. The early parts of the film are from the petty and ruthless ruler's point of view. She's vain and self-centered, and yes, she cares dearly about being the fairest of them all. She confides in a magic mirror and shows nothing but disdain for her stepdaughter, Snow White.
Roberts is likably wicked and has a good time with the image makeover. Soon enough, however, the movie changes focus from the queen to Snow White — turning a little more traditional and a little less interesting.
Lily Collins ("The Blind Side"), daughter of former Genesis frontman Phil Collins, is very pretty as Snow — like a young Audrey Hepburn, but with distractingly hypnotic eyebrows — but also very bland.
In "Mirror Mirror," Snow White escapes death and is cast into a strange forest, where, of course, she meets seven height-challenged residents. These dwarfs, however, aren't hard-working, song-singing miners. They're instead lovable thieves and rogues, with non-Disney nicknames like Chuckles and Butcher.
Reluctantly, they take in the young girl and teach her how to fight, because, well, every young movie heroine needs to wield a sword and use martial arts.
The dwarfs squabble and joke and generally have a good time. Their stilt-wearing method of fighting is inventive and cool, and they're probably the best part of the movie (Mark Povinelli's lovelorn Half-Pint is my favorite).
Unfortunately, the story revolves around Snow, and it falls flat. Her relationship with the queen isn't juicy enough, and her relationship with the handsome prince played by Armie Hammer (the Winklevoss twins in "Social Network") isn't ever believable.
Directed by Tarsem Singh ("Immortals"), "Mirror Mirror" has some good moments and is perfectly acceptable family fare. There's very little, however, that's magical.
Coming soon: Kristen Stewart's "Snow White and the Huntsman," which promises a darker, scarier Snow White.
Rental Recommendation: "Stardust" is a good but often overlooked family fantasy with a great cast. Grade: B+
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