Retelling age old fables in a tongue-in-cheek manner has been the fashion in
cinema ever since the original "Shrek". In the decade since, the
novelty seems to be wearing off as writers and directors try to find new twists
and gags to the same old story.
While few succeed, most fail. "Mirror Mirror" comes somewhere in between, but its clever metaphors that hold topical and global relevance lifts the film notches ahead of its story and gags.
Snow White`s (Lilly Collins) evil step-mother (Julia Roberts) has taken over her father`s lovely kingdom and turned the once happy place into a dark, poor and cold place where the subjects are over taxed. As Snowhite turns 18, the step-mother orders her to be killed. She survives and with the help of seven dwarfs tries to bring prosperity back to the kingdom and win a prince`s heart.
The fairy tale of Snow White is has not been spared by anyone - theatre, movies, TV or even animation. To give a new twist to it was hence a perilous task. And though writers Melisa Wallack and Jason Keller manage this feat, it does not feel as sumptuous a movie as one would have expected. Had it come before `Shrek` or its many spin-offs, it would have worked like a charm.
Yet, the intelligent script puts in some very topical issues beyond that of love as in the original tale. Here the dwarfs are outcasts of society and represents everyone who has been marginalised, from the poor, the tribal, to the disabled. The film`s other triumph thus also lies in taking their side, which most rarely do, and rooting for their inclusion.
It also subtly puts some serious political themes in a very light-hearted manner. Snow White in this version is not just beauty, but also physical strength and beauty as she fights off her step-mother (feminist themes), the ruler of the kingdom, literally. By pitting the princess against the ruler of the kingdom and by giving her the idea that she and the dwarfs are fighting for the people, it subtly espouses rebellion over tyranny.
Thus its message: rulers come and go, but justice must remain a constant. When it is not, one is duty bound to fight.
Julia does a good job of an evil, jealous step-mother while Lily has the charms of an Audrey Hepburn in her young days. The seven dwarfs, played by people you have seen for long in movies and on TV, do their job immaculately.
Tarsem has a delightful visual mastery. And like his previous films, this too is filled with visual grandeur. However, he takes a bit of it away by doing a very foolish thing.
At the end of the film, Snow White suddenly breaks into a song and dance which is extremely cheesy and is totally against the character of the film. It`s one thing to see Shrek and his gang do this in animation, and totally another to see live characters do this in a film which had no inclination of this. Audiences would see this as one of the worst culminations to an otherwise very good film.
Yet there are enough gags and fun moments in the film to get the momentum going. This is a much better effort by Tarsem that his previous, disastrous outing "Immortals" and hopefully will see him getting back to being the visual master that he truly is.