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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

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(Published in City Express, The New Indian Express on 14 April 2012, retrieved from

Cast: Julia Roberts, Lily Collins, Armie Hammer, Nathan Lane, Sean Bean
Director: Tarsem Singh
Rating: 1 star
2-line summary: Humdrum gags in a hackneyed storyline add nothing new to a fairytale that’s been done to death.
There is a conspiracy theorist within me that thinks the only reason Julia Roberts played a wicked queen, and Armie Hammer a near-naked prince who at one point thinks he’s a dog and licks her face, and Sean Bean made a five-minute appearance in a very expensive-looking movie was to sink tax money.
Tarsem Singh is fond of fantastical sets. This is the director who made The Cell, The Fall and the forgettable The Immortals. And he likes experimenting with animation. So it is that our senses are assaulted by several different styles of cartooning, sketching, CGI and filming in Mirror Mirror. What really jars, though, is the fabric of the narrative. I thought this was heading towards spoof, when it began to take itself seriously.
 Sadly, his spectacular settings serve to highlight the threadbare storyline, even while giving us something quite wonderful to gape at. And the dialogues are so abysmal one suspects they were adlibbed all through. Sample this: “Snow would have to do what snow does best; Snow would have to fall.” The queen says this twice.
She does bring some oomph into the queen, but mostly, the aging Roberts as the aging stepmother reminds me of the aging Kim Cattrall as the aging Samantha Jones in Sex and the City. She huffs, puffs, plots, letches, snaps, springs and plays chess with real courtiers, like all evil-royals-in-celluloid do.
The film is by no means intellectually gratifying, but it’s entertaining for about half an hour. Then, the low-brow innuendo begins to grate on one’s nerves. Armie Hammer, umm, hams, exaggerating his facial expressions and enunciations till he gets more annoying than his goofball friend. Now, what’s worse than cheap humour? Cheap humour in a fake British accent. Hammer’s is something like Bostonian, but that doesn’t help. Nothing can help a line like, “Women always go crazy when a Prince is around.”
So, Princess Snow White (Lily Collins) and the Queen, whose lavish parties have bankrupted her, are vying for the hand of Prince Alcott. Alcott has a grouse with the seven renamed dwarves, who strap on stilts and pull Robin-Hood-and-his-Merry-Men tricks. Their every human instinct is spoofed because of their disability, and that’s where we’re expected to laugh. There’s also a gag where a grasshopper “takes advantage” of a man-turned-cockroach. And then, there are a bunch of diatribes on dwarves being good people. The hurried denouement involves a scary beast and a stepmother in confessional mode.
The saving grace of the film is Nathan Lane, as the harried sidekick to the queen, Brighton. Aside from Lily Collins, whose perpetual smile and liquid eyes make her an endearing Snow White, he’s the only one who looks like he’s on the sets on business.
The Verdict: I wouldn’t even wait for the DVD. I’d wait for this movie to play on TV.


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