“Mirror, Mirror”
You have to play this ancient fable with some degree of tongue-in-cheek; the only question is if the self-parody is gentle and artful enough to be appealing. This one is.
Julia Roberts is surprisingly effective as the sarcastic beauty who cannot seem to gracefully accept her own aging; the malevolent Queen is so insecure that she flies into a jealous rage whenever that famed mirror informs her that only Snow White is more beautiful. Ironically, Lilly Collins, as Snow White, is mostly just young and innocent and naďve, which is, of course, everything her wicked royal highness is not.
Similar to the “Hunger Games” context, the idle rich live indolent lives of pomp, ceremony, entertainment, and lavish accoutrements, while the poor peasants struggle for scraps of food, and lethargic children are homeless in the streets. If the Queen wants to throw another royal ball, well, just tax the serfs some more. They’re the ignorant unwashed, anyway, and they can take deprivation because they’re used to it.
Nathan Lane is splendid as the fawning advisor/lackey to the self-centered Queen. When he incurs her displeasure, she flies into a fit of rage and pique, and uses her wicked magic to turn him into a cockroach. Oh, about that magic. Apparently there’s a price to pay. The mirror warns her that there are adverse consequences. (And, cleverly, the mirror image is Ms.Roberts herself as a menacing white witch.) The mirror also transports the diva-Queen to some sort of glacial-like fortress of solitude, where she can invoke her evil magic powers, all right, but, to mix the parables, there’s a portrait in a closet somewhere, taking on the increasing ugliness of this dark soul, and she’ll eventually become that persona, because that’s her destiny.
By the time she’s offering the poisoned apple, the dowager queen has already become the ugly troll she uses as a disguise. And the handsome prince, played with such dopey pure-of-heart enthusiasm by Armie Hammer, cannot help but fall for the quiet and gentle Snow White, even though the imposing and imperious queen tries desperately to dig her hooks into him (so she can have access to his kingdom’s prosperity).
I like the way they do the Seven Dwarfs: giving each of them a distinct personality, and yet they act as a team, and insist on unanimity in family decision-making. And they don’t even bother with the traditional Disney personas; they just make up their own. Very clever. And of course the otherwise-feckless dwarves develop an attachment to the sweet young beauty who needs a place to hide, and yet they can’t help but be snowed by her generous spirit.
“Mirror, Mirror” is just great fun: a venerable old fable told with new aplomb. It’s a gleeful parody that finds just the right touch of farcical whimsy.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Interim Pastor, St. Stephens’ Presbyterian Church, Irving , Texas