Oh Hell No

03.30.12

Is ‘Mirror Mirror’ Starring Julia Roberts the Worst Movie of the Year?

In Mirror Mirror, the dwarfs aren’t happy, and the prince acts like a dog. Ramin Setoodeh takes an 8-year-old girl to see the retelling of Snow White to investigate.

Is it too early to call Mirror Mirror the worst movie of the year?

This new retelling of Snow White targeted to children is so bad, the studio should have included the words “cracked,” “broken” or “splintered” in its title.

Worried that one viewing wasn’t enough to appreciate the utter terribleness of Mirror Mirror, I went to see it again, this time with a guest. Samara, an aspiring writer, enjoys soccer, acting, and considers herself a fairy-tale scholar. It should be noted that she absolutely loved the film. She’s 8 years old.

Here is our joint review:

The Evil Queen (Julia Roberts)

The film, directed by Tarsem Singh (The Cell), begins from the Queen’s point of view. Who cares what she has to say? Her narration is botched by a faux-English accent that brings to mind the last time Madonna tried to act.

Roberts’s Queen is supposed to be evil, but since she never commits to her character, she’s doesn’t come across that way. Instead, she’s only vaguely bad, like a high-school mean girl—but not even. Since Roberts is an old-school star who always plays a variation of herself, the Queen still laughs, smiles, and sounds like Julia Roberts. For fans of her romantic comedies like Notting Hill or My Best Friend’s Wedding, Mirror Mirror is particularly painful, because it’s like someone has kidnapped America’s most prominent leading lady and abandoned her—without a script—in a series of ugly bridesmaid dresses.

Video screenshot

Ramin Setoodeh and Peter Travers review ‘Mirror Mirror.’

But if you’ve never heard of Julia Roberts, this might not be a problem for you.

Samara says: “I think she did really well. She played her part really well. She was like the bad guy and sometimes I think it would be really fun to do that. My mom always says, ‘It doesn’t make a good story without the bad guy!’ She was good at being scary. She had this really creepy expression that sort of creeped me out. I like the way she spoke. I liked her dresses. It was sort of evil queen style—like, I’m so evil, and I have a really bad style!’

Snow White (Lily Collins)

In one of the early scenes in the film, Roberts barks to Collins’s Snow White: “Something about you is very irritating! I don’t know what it is.” I know what it is: It’s actually her performance. Roberts’s Queen might be cheesy, but Collins does something worse: she makes Snow White bland. She delivers all her lines like she’s reading them from a Teleprompter, and she looks like she’s perpetually posing for a fashion magazine, not playing a character. It’s puzzling why the dwarfs or the prince would even gravitate toward her in the first place. 

Lily, the daughter of Phil Collins, is making a splash in Hollywood as the next big thing, but we’ve yet to see why. Her previous movie, Abduction, featured lots of running and screaming—from the audience—but her ex-boyfriend Taylor Lautner was blamed for the cardboard acting. Mirror Mirror shows that Collins might lack enough flair to carry a film.

Samara says: “I think she played her part really well, too. She was funny and she had great expressions and her costumes were great. I really liked her costumes. I think her big eyebrows made her seem more like Snow White. But I think she spoke a little too fast at times.”

The Prince (Armie Hammer)

Among the biggest mysteries of Mirror Mirror isn’t whether Snow White will live happily ever after. It’s how Hammer—coming off The Social Network and J. Edgar—could get trapped in this career-killing part. At first, his prince simply takes off his shirt and stands in front of Roberts and Collins, who are both vying for his affection. Then the Queen casts a spell on him, and Hammer becomes … a dog, stuck in a man’s body. This requires him to pant, bark, fetch, and lick Julia Roberts. It’s hard to explain how uncomfortable this role is. PETA should be boycotting the film on behalf of dogs everywhere.

Samara says: “I thought the prince was really good, but at times he could be really weird. When he turned into a dog, I thought it was funny, but it didn’t really fit his personality. I can’t really explain it, but he should have acted more like a dog but less like a dog. He wasn’t a good dog.”

The Dwarfs

They don’t whistle while they work, but they have corny names like Wolf and Chuckles. They also crack jokes and journey through the forest on stilts to fight off invaders. This is obviously a ploy to appeal to boys in the audience. But by turning the dwarfs into a variation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Mirror Mirror becomes even more disjointed.

Samara says: “I thought they were plain funny. I liked that they all said, ‘Huddle up dudes,’ and one would be smacking the other in the head, and it was really funny. I really liked the dwarfs. My favorite part about them was basically everything. They were really funny. No, I didn’t miss the cartoon dwarfs. I don’t really like cartoons. This is better because it’s real and I just like real people."

“He should have acted more like a dog but less like a dog. He wasn’t a good dog.”

Art Direction

The sets are so ethereal, it looks like everything takes place in the afterlife. Also, the castle reminds me of a Jennifer Lopez music video.

Samara says: “I didn’t like the castle. Is it in the sky? It was like you could just throw something out and it would fall a million feet down. That was confusing.”

The Beast

Yes, Mirror Mirror throws one into the mix, in an attempt to attract the large fanbase of Beauty and the Beast.

Samara says, “I’d say the scariest part was the beast. But I actually thought it looked kind of cute.”

The Apple

Spoiler warning ahead! In the most unforgivable departure from the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, Snow White doesn’t eat the poisonous apple at the end of the film. In fact, the role of the apple is so inconsequential, you have to wonder why Julia Roberts is even holding one in the movie’s poster. This might be your best strategy for asking for a refund.

Samara says: “The weakest part of the story was probably the ending. Because when Snow White sliced the apple, I feel like that could have been bigger. And I thought they could have put the apple part in the beginning too. They make the apple seem like a minor part, but that’s a big part of the story!”

The Bollywood Song

Both times watching Mirror Mirror, this was my favorite part of the movie, because it meant that it was over.

Samara’s critique: “I liked the spirit, but I thought that girl was lip-syncing.”

How We’d Grade the Movie

Me: D-minus.

Samara: “A. I’m going to tell my friends I saw it and it was really good.”