(Published in The Sunday Guardian on 15 April 2012, retrieved from http://www.sunday-guardian.com/masala-art/charmless-spells)
Cast: Julia Roberts, Lily Collins, Armie Hammer, Nathan Lane, Sean Bean
Director: Tarsem Singh
Rating: 1 star
What do you say about a film that begins with Julia Roberts staring into a crystal ball, segues into Samurai Jack inspired animation, sinks back into celluloid, traverses glorious landscapes, and ends with a princess dancing a mujra to Punjabi beats with a refrain that goes “I believe...”, right after someone dies at her feet?
I’d spent most of Mirror Mirror wondering whether it was satirical or suicidal. When a fairytale has homophobia, feminism and insect rape, one can actually feel one’s brain cells die. It all fell into place when I saw the director’s name. Tarsem Singh, the man who gave usImmortals. And then, I was just relieved I hadn’t had to watch Freida Pinto overcome her orthodontic challenges to play Snow White. The ethereal-but-earthy Lily Collins does look the part. We can forgive her bushy eyebrows on the assumption that her evil stepmother didn’t send beauticians to her tower.
This is one of those confused flicks where the humour is infantile, but its connotations adult – case in point, two men squirm because their crotches are pressed against each other. It doesn’t help that one of the men, Prince Alcott, is played by Armie Hammer, who was last seen making out with Leonardo DiCaprio in J Edgar.
Julia Roberts abandons her girl-next-door outings to be the wicked-and-beautiful queen, but she makes her ditzy anyway. She begins by tripping all over her accent, which swings from public school British to London street to Southern drawl to Yankeespeak. Oh, this Snow White is told from the perspective of the stepmother. She doesn’t ask who the fairest of them all is, but makes a pointless journey to an otherworldly cabana to speak with her snarky mirror image. This becomes a subplot along the lines of Dorian Gray, or so my benumbed mind thought.
Populate a limp rendition of this much-told story with woman power, guards who pinkie-swear, a Prince who’s regularly stripped, gags on dwarves, a random beast, a useless king (poor Sean Bean in a guest appearance), animal-aided beauty treatments, and lines like, “Say ‘bread is meat, less is more’; commoners love a good metaphor”, and well, it’s the sort of movie you turn to for private time with a partner. Hell, forget partner; if my neighbours hadn’t giggled every time a dwarf appeared, I may have got to know them better.
The Verdict: Either the cast and crew were snacking on some illegal substance during filming, or my multiplex coffee was spiked.