Flat Humor Isn't Aided By Identity Crisis
Mirror Mirror has a serious identity crisis. What is it, exactly? A parody of the Snow White tale, a modern adaption of the story, a comedy, a drama, a typical triangle romance, etc. Mirror Mirror never truly nails a feel or even a genre, making it feel like a jumbled mess of ideas and thoughts that no one bothered to sort out to make it seem cohesive.
The (curiously un-named) Queen has selfishly ruled the (once again, un-named) kingdom as her own, though it is rightfully Snow White's. Making life miserable for everyone, The Queen issues heavy taxes and outrageous laws to make everything convenient for her. Snow White, however, wishes to do away with The Queen, and restore the kingdom back to the way it was when her late father was king. Through a crazy (and convenient) series of events, both The Queen and Snow White attempt to win the hand of Prince Alcott for their own goals and reasons (love, being rich, etc.).
The 7 Dwarves also get worked into this, but they've been given new names and personalities (or, lack of), and it's unlikely that anyone will ever label them as "cute."
This new take on the Snow White tale is so unlike the story we know and love, one wonders why the makers even bothered to make this a supposed "adaption" of the fairy tale. Many of the elements from the story, such as the poisonous apple, are so incredibly forced. The apple that I just mentioned doesn't appear until the very, very end, and it's apparent that it was only added to make the story similar to the Snow White tale.
Other liberties have been taken too, and the end result really doesn't feel like the Snow White tale at all.
At the very beginning of the film, it seems Mirror Mirror may be a mockery of the classic tale, but it quickly seems to be a modern revision of it. It gets many, many genre changes as the film goes by. It almost becomes a kind of game to see how many different varieties of films it's trying to be.
This genre confusion is somewhat disorienting at times. For the most part, Mirror Mirror feels like a comedy (though laughs are a little scarce), but some scenes are so absurdly serious for the kind of film it's generally presented as (though I suppose what exactly it IS presented as is anyone's guess) that at times, it feels more like a cheesy romance.
Still, the visuals do shine. While the costumes are often ridiculous (some unintentionally so), they can be quite stunning, if not always on purpose. Most of the special effects are good, the set pieces in general are quite attractive and colorful. The woods, however, in which a good portion of the film occurs, look very cheap. It's painfully obvious where the set meets the painted backgrounds.
The Queen is the only inspired part of the film, aside from the visuals, and even she isn't always entertaining. Some of her quips are amusing, while others aren't so much. There are many attempts at humor, and while some may evoke smiles (or laughter at it's higher points), much of the humor falls flat.
Actually, there is some jokes that are a little off color. At a glance, it's all innocent, but taken out of context, there are several gags that feel a bit risque. The Prince accidentally given "puppy love" magic and licks people's faces, the servant that turns into a cockroach later is said to have been "taken advantage of by a grasshopper," etc. It's gags like these that will indoubtedly raise the eyebrows of more than a few parents.
Julia Roberts does a over the top performance as The Queen, and ends up being the highlight of the movie. The other actors, however, don't fare quite as well. Lily Collins and Armie Hammer as Snow White and Prince Alcott respectively are often cheesy, or else wooden. The acting feels un-natural, and often clunky. Other cast members fare more or less the same. Nathan Lane as the bumbling Brighton performs a bit better, though his performance is by no means memorable.
The score, composed by Alan Menken, is actually one his better scores in the last several years. It's light and fun, though there are times when it doesn't seem to have much to do.
Mirror Mirror is perfect entertainment for younger children (if you don't mind a couple questionable jokes), but for adults and teens, Mirror Mirror has little to offer. Some laughs and pretty visuals won't compensate for clunky acting, genre clashes, and frequently flat humor. Mirror Mirror will probably be remembered as little more than trippy version of Snow White, or even more likely, won't be remembered at all.