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.
Your weekly Best of Seven is here! Here's what's happening on TV this week:
9PM: Last Comic Standing, NBC. Craig Robinson (The Office) hosts the 7th season of the search to find America's next big stand-up comedian.
11PM: The Daily Show, Comedy Central. Guest Denis Leary joins Jon Stewart to talk about the 7th season of his show Rescue Me, plus all of the usual snarky political commentary.
9:45PM Revenge of the Nerds, Encore. This juvenile college sex comedy is 1984's American Pie, but much funnier. With Robert Carradine as Adams College's nerdy hero. 80s nostalgia galore!
11PM: Louie, FX. Comedian Louis C.K.'s latest show is getting great reviews, so don't miss this opportunity to check out the 2nd episode at 11PM, with the premiere replaying at 11:30.
8PM: Con Air, Encore. It's not exactly clear why this over-the-top Nicolas Cage vehicle is so awesome: the classic Jerry Bruckheimer action, the witty dialogue, John Cusack... but this is pure summer popcorn at its best. Director Simon West's action-thriller proves that a little self-conscious absurdity often goes a long way in a big blockbuster. Especially when your action star is as incomparable as Nicolas Cage.
10PM: Work of Art: The Next Great Artist, Bravo. The latest reality show from Bravo features 14 artists competing for a solo exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum and $100,000 cash prize. I was skeptical at first that an art-based reality competition could work, but this show is surprisingly entertaining, especially if you're interested in modern art.
11:15PM: Spy Game, Starz. Tony Scott directs in one of my favorite movies of all time. With Robert Redford as a CIA agent who has to work a little harder than expected on his last day of work before retirement when his former protege (Brad Pitt) gets captured on a rogue mission in China.
7PM: Seinfeld, TBS. In "The Comeback," George goes to great lengths to come up with a now-classic comeback, Jerry learns his tennis instructor's terrible secret, and Elaine begins a tragic romance with a video rental employee who shares her taste in movies.
8PM: Oceans 13, USA. Steven Soderbergh's third outing with George Clooney and his merry band of thieves find's Danny Ocean (Clooney) going up against casino owner WIlly Bank (Al Pacino) when he double-crosses one of the original eleven, Reuben Tishkoff. The best 'Ocean' film after Oceans 11.
8PM: American Gangster, TNT. Denzel Washington and Russel Crowe co-star in director Ridley Scott's strong contender for entry into the gangster movie canon. Centers on the rise of drug lord Frank Lucas' heroin empire in 1970s New York and the cop who's devoted to taking him down.
11PM: Comedy Central Presents: Donald Glover, Comedy Central. Donald Glover (Troy on NBC's Community) proves he's funny on and off the set in this half-hour stand-up comedy special.
Jokes.com Donald Glover - Black Nerdcomedians.comedycentral.comFuturama New EpisodesIt's Always Sunny in PhiladelphiaRussell Simmon Stand-Up Comedy
7:30PM: Wedding Crashers, Comedy Central. Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn co-star as a pair of womanizing divorce mediators who crash weddings in their spare time. But their old shtick starts to fall apart when one of the men falls for a Senator's daughter (Rachel McAdams) at a Washington wedding. One of the funniest comedies of 2005.
10PM: The Bourne Supremacy, TNT. Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) finds himself the target of the CIA once again in this smart sequel to the 2002 thriller The Bourne Identity.