Mirror Mirror (PG)
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So, this came out in March 2012, about two months before Snow White & the Huntsman. I first saw it in August 2015, about a year and a half after I watched that movie. I vaguely recall before either movie came out, there was some concern about there being two movies based on the same fairy tale coming out around the same time. I even vaguelier think that when they came out, this one was more poorly received than the other one, but I can't remember for sure. (At the time I'm writing this, Snow White has 48% on Rotten Tomatoes and Mirror Mirror has 49%. Neither rating is great- and I think both are unfair- but they're pretty damn close to each other.) Anyway, the two movies definitely have very different vibes. Whereas the other was fairly dark, this one was much brighter. It was basically trying to be a live-action cartoon, though maybe a bit more serious than the Disney version. But also more comical. And a little bit surreal. I dunno. Whatever it was trying to do, I think it succeeded. So... I think I liked both movies pretty much equally, just... each for what it was trying to be. I don't think one conceit is inherently superior to the other, you know?
The movie begins with some backstory narration by the evil queen (Julia Roberts), during which we see a CG rendering of what she's talking about. There was a king (Sean Bean) who had a daughter, and his wife died, and he raised his daughter alone. But he decided she needed a mother, so he married the evil queen (whose name I don't believe was ever mentioned). And in the narration, she makes fun of some familiar tropes, which I enjoyed. Some kind of evil apparently besieges the kingdom, or something, and the king goes out to fight it, and dies. And then years pass, so most of the movie takes place when the king's daughter, Snow White (Lily Collins), turns 18. (The movie is now live-action, btw.) We see that the queen likes throwing parties, to which Snow is not invited. And there's a baker (Mare Winningham) who is friendly with Snow, and encourages her to go out and see what has become of the kingdom, under the queen's rule. Meanwhile, there's a prince named Alcott (Armie Hammer) who has been wandering around with a valet named Renbock, looking for adventure. The two of them are waylaid by bandits, who at first appear to be giants, but turn out to be dwarfs. Alcott and Renbock are left strung up from a tree, where they're later discovered by Snow, who frees them. They continue on towards the castle of the evil queen, and snow continues on to a nearby village. The queen had sent her servant, Brighton (Nathan Lane) to the village to levy more taxes... but I'm getting events out of order.
The taxes were to pay for a party the queen wanted to throw to try to woo Prince Alcott. She needed to marry someone with money, since she'd blown through all her money on her frequent parties, and whatnot. (There was a baron who wanted to marry her, but she wasn't interested in him.) Anyway, Snow sees Brighton show up in the village to demand more taxes, when the villagers are already starving. (Brighton wasn't really happy about any of this, but he had no choice.) And he explains that the taxes are necessary to fight some terrible beast that lives in the woods. (The same beast that presumably killed the king, years ago.) Snow returns to the castle and attends the ball, where she again meets Alcott. And I guess they sort of fall in love, in the way that only happens in fairy tales. The queen isn't happy about this, of course, and she orders Brighton to take Snow into the woods to be killed by the beast. But once there, Brighton lets her go, and she ends up being taken in by the seven dwarfs (the bandits who had previously accosted Alcott). Their names, btw, are nothing like in the Disney movie. They are Grimm (Danny Woodburn), Butcher, Wolf, Napoleon, Half Pint, Grub, and Chuck. Snow provides them with an option other than banditry, and... they teach her to fight, so she can join them in their banditry. It's complicated. And eventually they all fight Alcott and some of the queen's soldiers, which is how Alcott learns she is alive (having been informed by the queen that she was dead, after she was informed so by Brighton).
And um... the queen puts a spell on Alcott to make him agree to marry her. And Snow and the dwarfs make their own plans against the queen, and eventually release Alcott from the spell. And various other things happen. For one thing, the queen occasionally walks through a mirror into another world, where she talks with her reflection (who I assumed was played by Julia Roberts, but after watching the movie I learned from Wikipedia that the reflection was played by her sister Lisa, whom I don't think I'd ever even heard of before, but I couldn't tell them apart). Anyway, the reflection had magic, unlike the queen, and she was obviously wiser than the queen, so... it seems like there's some very interesting backstory there that is never explained. But anyway, the queen uses her reflection's magic against her enemies, throughout the movie. And there's a pretty cool battle against some marionettes (which I'm pretty sure were CGI). And eventually Snow and Alcott have to face the beast (which is CGI). And... I don't want to spoil how everything turns out, but of course there's a happy ending.
So, um... yeah. There are lots of great visual effects, great costumes, and some humor. I mentioned that the queen's opening narration kind of played with some tropes, and I should add that... pretty much all the characters turned fairy tale clichés on their head throughout the movie. You know, maybe not as much as some movies I've seen over the last decade or two, but enough that I appreciated it. It's just really a fun movie, I think. And I don't know what else to tell you.