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.
SANTA MONICA, Calif., Feb. 9, 2000 -- Watch out, "Charlie's Angels." Here come "Josie and the Pussycats."
According to today's Hollywood Reporter, Rachael Leigh Cook, the pan-wielding grrl from those get-tough "Just Say No" ads, has signed on to play the title character in a live-action "Josie" film.
As announced last year, "Can't Hardly Wait's" Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan will direct.
The Universal picture is scheduled to begin shooting this summer. Marc Platt and Riverdale Prods., which own the rights to the toon, are the producers. Mogul Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds and wife Tracey are in talks to provide the music through their Edmonds Entertainment.
For those not up on their schlocky cartoon history, "Josie and the Pussycats," inspired by the 1960s-era comic book, was originally produced for Saturday morning purposes from 1970-72. Cousins to "The Archies," the Pussycats were a bubblegum precursor of, say, the Go-Gos. Their all-girl band lineup consisted of Melody, Valerie and, yes, Josie. (A pre-"Charlie's Angels" Cheryl Ladd provided Melody's singing voice.) In 1972, the Pussycats were blasted into orbit -- hence the title of their next (and, alas, final) TV toon: "Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space" (1972-74).
Cook, 20, is best known for her star turn in last year's surprise hit "She's All That".
HUNGRY FOR A SCOOBY SNACK? In other movie-toon news, the word from the New York Daily News is that Jennifer Love Hewitt could be up for the shagadelic role of Daphne in Mike Myers' planned live-action version of the canine cartoon "Scooby Doo."
KLEIN LACES UP FOR 'BALL': "American Pie" star Chris Klein is set to show off his skating skills in a remake of the 1970s cult hit "Rollerball." The Reporter notes that Klein is in final negotiations to star in the John McTiernan-helmed sci-fi actioner. The MGM/UA production could be the studio's major release for 2001.
Klein takes over a role originated by James Caan in 1975. The original futuristic pic, directed by Norman Jewison, featured Caan as the veteran star of a sport where groups of warriors in roller skates and on motorcycles battled to the death for corporate sponsors.
No word on the changes in scripter John Pogue's ("The Skulls") latest draft, but sources report that Jewison could be involved in bringing the new version to the screen.
IN 'MOTION': Reese Witherspoon, a Golden Globe nominee for her sharp work in the hilarious "Election," switches gears as the producer and star of the drama "Slow Motion." The Reporter notes that Witherspoon is set to work on the Sony-based Phoenix Pictures production, which is based on Dani Shapiro's 1992 novel "Playing With Fire."
The film's about a college student who is seduced by her roommate's father. According to the Reporter, it's a story about an "abusive relationship between two people blinded by love."
GOING TO 'TOWNIES'? Director Mike Figgis and Brad Pitt might be heading downtown on the project "Urban Townies." The Reporter has the filmmaker scheduled to meet with Pitt about the film, which the actor has been considering for a while.
The drama, produced by Barry Levinson and Paula Weinstein, has to do with a man from the Midwest who returns to New York City to find his old girlfriend involved with his best friend.