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.
Is the supermarket checkout line going too fast for you? Well, don’t worry. Beginning this week and (for every Friday hereafter), we’ll comb the tabs for the sort of news you're either too ashamed and/or too cheap to buy (and read) for yourself.
Why will we do this? Quite simply, we have no shame.
Without further ado, here’s a rundown of this week's Top 10 tabloid tidbits (from the just-released editions of the National Enquirer, the Star and the Globe):
1. Whitney Houston Pregnant? From deep within the Florida jail complex where Bobby Brown is currently being held on a probation violation, a fellow inmate intimated to the Star what the rapper reputedly previously intimated to him -- that Houston is pregnant with Brown's second child. Moreover, the inmate told the Star that Brown is weary about the baby’s health “because of all the coke [Houston] was doing.” (Our calls to Houston’s people have not yet been returned.)
2. Regis Reign Preordained More reasons why everybody should have their own personal psychic: The Globe says that Regis Philbin knew all along that “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” was going to be a freakin' huge hit. How did he know? Because his psychic, one Sydney Omarr, told him three years ago.
3. The Hoover Conspiracy The Globe forwards the theory (a first of its kind) that ex-FBI top brass and closeted drag queen J. Edgar Hoover did not die in 1972 from a heart attack but was killed by poisoned toilet paper. A forensic expert tells the tab that the particular method of assassination was pretty darn ingenious since the evidence would have been immediately “flushed away.”
4. Kathie Lee Losing It? Per the Globe, friends of Kathie Lee Gifford are collectively concerned over the talk show hostess’ alleged tenuous sanity. And, boy, do they have reasons to worry, according to the tab: (1) Gifford has told friends that she’s on a potato chips only diet and (2), she has been really into wearing clothing that directs people’s attentions to her chest.
5. Summer Vacations Really Expensive! The National Enquirer reports that the average American will spend more than $2,000 on summer vacation this year -- that’s 8 percent of the average American's annual income (representing about 22 days of work). Also, the Enquirer says out of those average vacationing Americans, 73.6 percent of them will pay for their trips with credit cards.
6. Sharon Stone Is Happy The Globe, the National Enquirer and the Star all agree that Sharon Stone seems really stoked about adopting her baby boy. Also, all three tabs employed “Basic Instinct” puns to describe Stone and husband Phil Bronstein’s excitement, i.e. the two have a “Basic Instinct for parenthood”; Stone pursued her “Basic Instinct to become a mom”; “basic maternal instinct”; and Stone “displayed her basic maternal instinct.”
7. Heather Thomas Has a Midwife Witch Well, not exactly. But according to The National Enquirer, the 42-year-old “The Fall Guy” first-time mother attributes the success of her recent labor to her spiritual adviser, who was said to have summoned the power of “white magic” during the whole messy thing.
8. Billy Joel Exhibits Typical Male Behaviors The Globe has it that aging rocker Billy Joel reportedly has taken to hiring fashion consultants to “remake” girlfriend Trish Bergin to his taste and liking.
9. Helen Reddy: Hello, Sailor! Per the Globe, the 50-something "I Am Woman" chanteuse promotes the idea of keeping a boyfriend handy in every part of the globe. Says the ready Reddy: "It really makes much more sense."
10. Just the Date-Rape Drug, Ma'am? Aging sex kitten Mamie Van Doren ("High School Confidential!") tells the National Enquirer that actor/producer Jack Webb had his way with her after he tied her up and apparently drugged her during a "date" in 1953. "I wanted to pick up the phone and call someone ...," Van Doren says. "[But] they'd never accept that the star of 'Dragnet' was a rapist."