Theatrics slapstick and cheer are cinematic qualities you rarely find outside the realm of animation. Disney perfected it with their pantheon of cartoon classics mixing music humor spectacle and light-hearted drama that swept up children while still capturing the imaginations and hearts of their parents. But these days even reinterpretations of fairy tales get the gritty make-over leaving little room for silliness and unfiltered glee. Emerging through that dark cloud is Mirror Mirror a film that achieves every bit of imagination crafted by its two-dimensional predecessors and then some. Under the eye of master visualist Tarsem Singh (The Fall Immortals) Mirror Mirror's heightened realism imbues it with the power to pull off anything — and the movie never skimps on the anything.
Like its animated counterparts Mirror Mirror stays faithful to its source material but twists it just enough to feel unique. When Snow White (Lily Collins) was a little girl her father the King ventured into a nearby dark forest to do battle with an evil creature and was never seen or heard from again. The kingdom was inherited by The Queen (Julia Roberts) Snow's evil stepmother and the fair-skinned beauty lived locked up in the castle until her 18th birthday. Grown up and tired of her wicked parental substitute White sneaks out of the castle to the village for the first time. There she witnesses the economic horrors The Queen has imposed upon the people of her land all to fuel her expensive beautification. Along the way Snow also meets Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) who is suffering from his own money troubles — mainly being robbed by a band of stilt-wearing dwarves. When the Queen catches wind of the secret excursion she casts Snow out of the castle to be murdered by her assistant Brighton (Nathan Lane).
Fairy tales take flack for rejecting the idea of women being capable but even with its flighty presentation and dedication to the old school Disney method Mirror Mirror empowers its Snow White in a genuine way thanks to Collins' snappy charming performance. After being set free by Brighton Snow crosses paths with the thieving dwarves and quickly takes a role on their pilfering team (which she helps turn in to a Robin Hooding business). Tarsem wisely mines a spectrum of personalities out of the seven dwarves instead of simply playing them for one note comedy. Sure there's plenty of slapstick and pun humor (purposefully and wonderfully corny) but each member of the septet stands out as a warm compassionate companion to Snow even in the fantasy world.
Mirror Mirror is richly designed and executed in true Tarsem-fashion with breathtaking costumes (everything from ball gowns to the dwarf expando-stilts to ridiculous pirate ship hats with working canons) whimsical sets and a pitch-perfect score by Disney-mainstay Alan Menken. The world is a storybook and even its monsters look like illustrations rather than photo-real creations. But what makes it all click is the actors. Collins holds her own against the legendary Julia Roberts who relishes in the fun she's having playing someone despicable. She delivers every word with playful bite and her rapport with Lane is off-the-wall fun. Armie Hammer riffs on his own Prince Charming physique as Alcott. The only real misgiving of the film is the undercooked relationship between him and Snow. We know they'll get together but the journey's half the fun and Mirror Mirror serves that portion undercooked.
Children will swoon for Mirror Mirror but there's plenty here for adults — dialogue peppered with sharp wisecracks and a visual style ripped from an elegant tapestry. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve and rarely do we get a picture where both the heart and the sleeve feel truly magical.
Who said "Wild Wild West" didn't deserve any awards? On this Oscar weekend, the overblown, undercooked Will Smith action-comedy got exactly what it deserved: five Razzies.
"Wild Wild West" Yes, the critically unacclaimed summer smash was tops among all, um, winners at the 20th Annual Razzies, "dis-honoring" the worst in film, as they say. The bad-movie-watchin' folks at the Golden Raspberry Foundation unveiled their picks for '99 on Saturday.
They also released their choices for all-time baddies, slamming Sylvester Stallone as the worst actor of the 20th century and Madonna as worst actress for the same 100-year period. Stallone was selected on the strength, or lack thereof, of 17 films, from "Tango & Cash" to any "Rocky" movie after the third installment. Madonna qualified for her work in a half-dozen films, not including this year's "The Next Best Thing."
In the year-end race, "Wild Wild West" was dinged for: worst picture, worst director (Barry Sonnenfeld), worst screenplay, worst song (courtesy of its star) and worst screen couple (Smith and his no-chemistry partner Kevin Kline). But other than that, the Razzies loved it.
You got to hand it to the Golden Raspberry folks: They don't pick on the little guys. Also on their hit list: Adam Sandler (worst actor for his portrayal of "an amazingly idiotic adoptive father" in "Big Daddy") and Denise Richards (named worst supporting actress for her turn as a "tank-topped 'nuclear physicist'" in "The World Is Not Enough").
In the inevitable department, there was the requisite slam at Jar Jar Binks. George Lucas' much-reviled "Phantom Menace" creature was named worst supporting actor.
Here's a complete look at the victims of the 20th Annual Razzies:
Worst Picture: "Wild Wild West" Worst Actor: Adam Sandler, "Big Daddy" Worst Actress: Heather Donahue, "The Blair Witch Project" Worst Screen Couple: Kevin Kline & Will Smith, "Wild Wild West" Worst Supporting Actress: Denise Richards, "The World Is Not Enough" Worst Supporting Actor: Jar Jar Binks, "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace" Worst Director: Barry Sonnenfeld, "Wild Wild West" Worst Screenplay: Jim Thomas & John Thomas, S.S. Wilson & Brent Maddock and Jeffrey Price & Peter S. Seaman, "Wild Wild West" Worst Original Song: "Wild Wild West" from "Wild Wild West," by Stevie Wonder, Kool Mo Dee and Will Smith Worst Actor of the Century: Sylvester Stallone Worst Actress of the Century: Madonna Worst Picture of the Decade: "Showgirls" (1995) Worst New Star of the Decade: Pauly Shore