Trailer Trash: Mirror Mirror
By Samuel Hoelker
April 10, 2012
Isn’t it the worst when you see a trailer for a movie that you’re looking forward to and it’s, well, a piece of crap? Sometimes it turns out that the movie is actually fantastic and just the victim of a bad trailer (such as the self-congratulating Titanic 3D re-release), and sometimes that movie is just a flop (such as Casa de Mi Padre). I’ll be saving you that risk from now on, as I’ll be checking out the films with the lousiest trailers and seeing whether it’s just poor editing that made the trailer terrible, or if no amount of editing could make it good. Today’s study: Tarsem’s Mirror Mirror.
The trailer starts off with Phil Collins’s somehow-attractive daughter dancing to a Bollywood-style song. Seems to be a typical fairy tale movie, right? Oh, you’re so wrong, because here comes Julia Roberts as the evil queen to meta-tize it! And it turns out she doesn’t like that Snow White is the fairest of them all (nor, does it seem, Nathan Lane or Armie Hammer)! Nor does she like the fact that the story is getting “a new wrinkle” (or as she calls them, “crinkles”). Little Phil Collins is banished to the woods by Nathan Lane, who really always is a welcome sight. Julia Roberts plans to throw a ball to get the rich Armie Hammer to marry her, but whodathunk that he’s more interested in Little Phil Collins?
Then it seems we’re introduced to the Seven Dwarfs, who, when finding out that her name is Snow White, proclaim, “Snow way!” Julia Roberts then is having trouble fitting into her old corset and blames it all on her inferiors. Then it comes to the always line-crossing love potion, which Julia Roberts gives Armie Hammer some. But watch out! It’s actually for puppy love, so he wants her to rub his tummy. It seems to have worked, though, since Armie Hammer now fights for the Queen and Little Phil Collins fights (very awkwardly) for the dwarfs. Julia Roberts is not happy that Little Phil Collins is coming to stop the wedding, and utters the most out-of-place line so far, “Everyone has magic within them,” which is odd coming from a trailer where there’s been no magic so far. But just in case you forgot about its self-referentiality, she mentions “happily ever after,” and the last thing we’re treated to is one of the dwarfs making a Scarface reference even though it’s 2012.
A friend of mine has described the trailer to Mirror Mirror as the worst trailer he had ever seen. I wouldn’t disdain it that much, but it’s certainly terrible. It has a rocky, inconsistent tone, it seems to be talking down to its young audience, and (its worst offense), it appears to be going for a Shrek style. While Shrek was fresh, “say hello to my little friend” is not. Who knows what other pop-culture atrocities will come about? Will Tarsem’s trademark visual style be able to make up for hammy acting (pun partially intended) and shotgun-to-the-head-inducing dialogue?
Well, whodathunkit? I enjoyed Mirror Mirror. I always had faith that it would, at the very least, pull through visually (Tarsem has such good will with me – he could make ten Immortals sequels and I’d still be excited for his next movie), and considering his masterpiece The Fall has some script and pacing issues itself, I’d just have to forgive the rest of the movie. There was no need for that though – Mirror Mirror evaded its flaws in the trailer. Well, most of the flaws, since Julia Roberts is still in the movie.
Outside of maybe one other joke which I’ve forgotten about, Mirror Mirror evades the pop-culture trap that is so easy to fall into. While light-hearted and modern, it still manages to stay true to itself and its time period. It’s not a sendup of fairy tales or even the Snow White story itself – it’s simply a loving “reimagining,” as terrible as that word is. Some things could have used more reimagining than others (the dwarfs got old pretty quickly…), but it’s not done out of malice or jadedness.
Most of the cast helps out considerably – except when trying to be tough, Little Phil Collins pulls off the naïve poor little rich girl act very well. I’ve never seen Enchanted, but I’m sure her innocence works better than Amy Adams’s did. And Armie Hammer’s schtick works very well; while he shouldn’t hedge his bets on becoming a comic actor, he can more than easily hold his own in a fictional environment. And both of them do much better than Julia Roberts. She tries way too hard to be a hammy goddess, causing her to have a fluctuating accent and not actually appear like she’s having fun. The Evil Queen should be a role in which to relish, not one that almost appears to be a political attempt for a comeback. There’s little about the upcoming Snow White and the Huntsman that interests me, except that I’m sure Charlize Theron will do more with the role than Roberts was able to do.
The film’s defining quality, of course, is its visuals. I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite as visually stirring since, well, The Fall. I’ve never seen more dazzling whites on screen before. Everything looks perfect and fitting; Tarsem’s visual style works surprisingly well for a children’s movie. It’s never too wacky or out-there; it’s always believable (well, maybe not the part with the bird poop. Oh, guess what? There’s a bird poop joke), and since it’s not a pop-culture filled in-joke that will be dated too quickly (I’m afraid to re-watch Shrek; it’s most likely a sign of the times instead of something timeless), Tarsem’s world is perfectly set up.
The verdict: Mirror Mirror is much better than its trailer. Its visuals excel it past the pleasantness it has on a basic level, but that makes the film worthwhile.