Roberts plays the Wicked Queen, who sees in her comely stepdaughter a rival both for the throne and for the title of, as Us magazine would put it, the Kingdom’s Hottest Royal. The actress who plays Snow White, Lily Collins, is indeed a beauty, with Brooke Shields eyebrows and, well, Julia Roberts lips. With her raven hair done just right, there’s a certain Audrey Hepburn quality about her. But head-to-head, really, even a magic mirror would have to be totally cracked to overlook the radiant Roberts, who as she moves through her 40s has developed a face that combines the open-eyed freshness of youth with the gentle creases of experience (“crinkles,” her Wicked Queen calls them).
Of course, when it comes to inner beauty, Snow has it all over the queen, and that is why we stand in her corner from the outset. Pretty soon the queen sends Snow to her presumed doom in the forest — but her footman (Nathan Lane, the star of every scene he’s in) lacks the heart to kill her. Snow disappears into the night, awakening in the home of seven small men.
Ah yes, the Seven Dwarfs. Or Dwarves. (Disney used the former; Tolkien went with the latter). The ensemble of actors enlisted here is perhaps the nicest surprise of Mirror Mirror, each one playing a carefully conceived character, each one with a unique appeal. Handsome and personable, the seven actors seem genuinely comfortable in their skins, and so we accept them almost immediately as equals in stature to those who physically tower over them (most recognizable of the troupe is Danny Woodburn, so funny for all those years as Kramer’s friend on Seinfeld).
Mirror Mirror has a rich, impeccably composed look — just as you’d expect from Indian director Tarsem Singh, whose film The Fall stands as one of the most exquisitely realized movies ever made. He occasionally gets tangled in the strings of Mirror Mirror’s narrative as screenwriters Melissa Wallack and Jason Keller (Machine Gun Preacher) invoke a few too many fairy tale conventions while injecting those unwanted anachronisms now seemingly mandatory in screen fairy tales. But Singh’s performers, and his own keen sense of what makes a movie visually captivating, make Mirror Mirror an occasion if not for reflection, then for minor celebration.