By Carl Kozlowski
What’s a parent with young children to do this weekend, as every moviegoer in the world will seem to be lining up for The Hunger Games again? And especially what if your child is a little too young to handle a movie in which teens are killing other teens?
Or how about anyone, period, who doesn’t find it entertaining to watch a movie in which kids kill kids? Thankfully, a terrific piece of movie magic is hitting theaters Friday, as Julia Roberts gives her most enjoyable performance in years as the evil queen mother in Mirror Mirror, the wildly entertaining reinvention of the Snow White fairy tale.
The story might seem familiar to anyone who read Grimm’s Fairy Tales or saw the Walt Disney cartoon classic, but Mirror Mirror is bold, brash and fresh entertainment from its opening moments all the way through the end. Yes, the basics are simple enough, as Snow White’s king father disappears in the forest when she’s a young child, and she’s left to the uncaring devices of a mother who fears losing both her beauty and her power to her daughter.
When Snow White escapes her castle prison on her 18th birthday and makes her way to the kingdom’s impoverished residents in a nearby city, she is shocked to see that the queen’s ruthlessly incessant taxation of the people has ruined their lives. And when the queen’s newest taxes are stolen by a mercenary group of dwarfs who use spring-propelled stilt legs to get around quickly, Snow White stumbles across them and convinces them to give back the money.
That decision makes the dwarfs instant heroes, and between the thrill of being loved by the public and having a beautiful new roommate in Snow White, they decide to keep doing the right thing. And so it is that they decide to team with Snow and a handsome prince to wage a comical yet thrilling revolt against the queen.
Mirror Mirror goes far beyond this simple plot, with a stunning and star-making performance by Lily Collins, a young actress who resembles Audrey Hepburn in every way. Collins exudes beauty, wit, charm and a derring-do in her action scenes that—with any justice in the world—would make her an even bigger star than The Hunger Games’ Jennifer Lawrence.
Fellow rising star Armie Hammer—who played the Winklevoss twins to great acclaim in The Social Network and will be the new Lone Ranger alongside Johnny Depp’s Tonto in next year’s reboot of the classic Western—also mixes humor, charm and action skills to great effect. But it’s Roberts, with an icily humorous take on her evil icon character, who will provide the greatest fun for parents and others old enough to remember when her own magic made her the biggest female star on the planet.
The film’s producers chose wisely for behind-the-scenes talent as well, as director Tarsem Singh—director of some of the world’s most inventive TV commercials—finally finds a film worthy of his visionary talents. Following the surreal serial-killer film The Cell and last year’s mythological epic The Immortals, he finally finds an upbeat tale to match his whimsical imagination.
Add it up, and you’ve got my favorite movie of the year so far. Let Mirror Mirror work its magic on you as well.