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.
The romantic comedy How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days showed Shanghai Knights how to lose at the box office this weekend by taking in a winsome $24.1 million.* This makes it the third best February opener behind Hannibal and Scream 3.
Hannibal took in a head-spinning $58 million when it debuted in February of 2001, while Scream 3 wailed with a second all-time February best with $34.7 million in 2000.
How To Lose a Guy, which revolves around a writer for a fictitious magazine who agrees to write a firsthand account of all the things women do to drive men away sent the weekend favorite, Shanghai Knights, spinning, although the buddy comedy still managed to strong-arm a cavalier $19.7 million, beating predecessor Shanghai Noon's four-day $15.6 million opening take in May of 2000.
The third film to debut this weekend, the romantic comedy Deliver Us From Eva, opened sixth with a righteous $7 million.
Chicago's expansion propelled the musical into third place with $10.7 million in its seventh week of release, gaining two spots from last week's No. 5 position.
The CIA thriller The Recruit came in fourth place with $9.5 million, a significant drop from its No. 1 spot last week when it opened. The horror sequel Final Destination 2 also fell from grace in its second week of release, sliding from second to fifth place with a harmless $8.6 million.
Also losing gas in its second week, the motorcycle drama Biker Boyz barely passed the finish line with a wretched $4 million, ranking eighth. It debuted in the third spot last week.
The thriller Darkness Falls fell from sixth to ninth place in its third week with a not-so-scary $3.8 million, while The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers held on to tenth place in its eighth week of release with $3.7 million.
THE TOP TEN
Paramount Pictures' How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days opened with a winning ESTIMATED $24.1 million at 2,923 theaters. Its $8,245 per theater was the highest of any other film this week.
Directed by Donald Petrie, it stars Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey.
The PG-13 rated film focuses on a writer for a woman's magazine whose assignment is to write a first-hand account of all the things women do to drive away men. The man she uses as her guinea pig, however, has just made a bet with his boss that he can make any girl fall in love with him in ten days.
Buena Vista's PG-13 rated buddy actioner Shanghai Knights premiered in second place with an ESTIMATED $19.7 million take at 2,753 theaters ($7,181 per theater).
Directed by Tom Dey, it stars Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson.
The martial arts pic is a sequel to 2000's Shanghai Noon. This time Wild West cowboys Chon Wang and Roy O'Bannon head to London to avenge the death of Chon's father.
Miramax's PG-13 rated musical Chicago expanded to 1,218 theaters in its fifth week and danced into third place with an ESTIMATED $10.7 million (+52%) at 1,841 theaters ($5,824 per theater). Its cume is approximately $63.7 million.
Directed by Rob Marshall, it stars Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere.
*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.
Buena Vista's PG-13 CIA thriller The Recruit, last week's box office topper, dropped to fourth place in its second week, with an ESTIMATED $9.5 million (-42%) at 2,376 theaters ($3,998 per theater). Its cume is approximately $30.1 million.
Directed by Roger Donaldson, it stars Al Pacino and Colin Farrell.
New Line's R rated thriller sequel Final Destination 2 fell three rungs to fifth place in its second week with an ESTIMATED $8.6 million (-46%) at 2,834 theaters ($3,052 per theater). Its cume is approximately $28.1 million.
Directed by David Richard Ellis, it stars Ali Larter, A.J. Cook and Michael Landes.
Focus Feature's romantic comedy Deliver Us From Eva opened to a respectable ESTIMATED $7 million at 1,139 theaters. Its $6,216 per theater average was the second highest of any film playing this week.
Directed by Gary C. Hardwick, it stars LL Cool J and Gabrielle Union.
The R rated pic revolves around three men who plot to free themselves of their mates' unattached and controlling older sister Eva by paying a cash-strapped ladies' man to romance her.
Warner Bros.' PG rated comedy Kangaroo Jack placed seventh--down three spots from last week--in its fourth week of release with an ESTIMATED $5.8 million (-35%) at 2,848 theaters ($5,890 per theater). Its cume is approximately $52.8 million.
Directed by David McNally, it stars Jerry O'Connell, Anthony Anderson and Estella Warren.
DreamWorks' PG-13 rated drama Biker Boyz fell five notches to eighth place in its second week of release with an ESTIMATED $4 million (-60%) at 1,769 theaters (+3 theaters; $2,261 per theater). Its cume is approximately $15.5 million.
Directed by Reggie Rock Bythewood, it stars Laurence Fishburne, Derek Luke and Orlando Jones.
Sony Pictures' PG-13 rated horror Darkness Falls fell from sixth to ninth spot in its third week with an ESTIMATED $3.8 million (-46%) at 2,456 theaters (-409theaters, $1,547 per theater). Its cume is approximately $26.7 million.
Directed by Jonathan Liebesman, it stars Chaney Kley, Emma Caulfield and Lee Cormie.
Rounding out the Top Ten was New Line Cinema's PG-13 rated fantasy sequel The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, which dropped three slots in its eighth week with an ESTIMATED $3.3 million (-34%) at 1680 theaters (-495 theaters; $2,009 per theater). Its cume is approximately $320.7 million.
Directed by Peter Jackson, it stars Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom and Viggo Mortensen.
The top 12 films this weekend grossed an ESTIMATED $103 million, up 10.08 percent from last weekend when they totaled $93.6 million.
The top 12 were up a significant 21.94 percent from last year when they totaled $84.5 million.
Last year, Warner's R rated Collateral Damage dominated the box office in its opening week with $15 million at 2,824 theaters ($5,332 per theater); Universal's opening week of Big Fat Liar was second with $11.5 million at 2,531 theaters ($4,565 per theater); and MGM's Rollerball, also in its debut week, came in third with $9 million at 2,762 theaters ($3,263 per theater).