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'Mirror Mirror' review

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Released on Friday, Apr 6 2012

Mirror Mirror

Snow White will be getting down and dirty when Twilight star Kristen Stewart takes the role this summer, but before then British-born actress Lily Collins (daughter of Phil Collins) nabs top billing in this sweet and sassy version of the fairytale which is more obviously aimed at all the family.

Collins has the ideal look of innocence and, quite rightly, shows no trace of irony whether she's talking to the birds or answering barbed questions from her wicked stepmother The Queen (Julia Roberts playing it bone dry). It's that untouchable spirit that sets Snow White apart, but thankfully, the writers temper her sweetness with a wonderfully goofy sense of humour.

That's perfectly embodied by her leading man Armie Hammer, playing the devastatingly handsome, suave but stunningly naïve Prince Alcott. It's an unlikely echo of his role in J Edgar and perhaps, too, this is a taste of what to expect from his Lone Ranger turn opposite Johnny Depp.

Mirror Mirror
At its best, the film is a joust between Hammer and Roberts to see who can get the most laughs. The Pretty Woman star revels in playing the wicked Queen like a bored housewife of Orange County - obsessed with preserving her beauty whether by smearing herself with bird poo or indulging in black magic via an enchanted mirror. She is determined to outshine her stepdaughter Snow.

With Snow's father the King mysteriously vanished, the impecunious Queen aims to marry Alcott to refill the palace coffers. His pert pecs are merely a bonus and the writers also capitalise on this, making a running joke of having him repeatedly fleeced and stripped by an antisocial gang of seven dwarves who live in the forest. Forget Sneezy and Dopey - think Terry Gilliam's Time Bandits.

Eventually, Snow runs away from the palace on a Robin Hood-style mission to give taxes back to the poor and it's the dwarves who take her in and teach her how to handle a sword. Immortals helmer Tarsem Singh manages to fit in some neatly choreographed action, showing a rough-and-tumble side to Snow White, but also seizing the opportunity to regale the kids with a bit of slapstick.

The Prince and Snow White go toe-to-toe in one scene and that sets the tone for their unfolding romance. Events have them constantly wrong-footed; Alcott falls in love at first sight only to then fall foul of one of her stick-ups. The two don't share much screen time because the Queen vies for his attention, but the irony is that Hammer and Roberts generate more sparks, at least in comedy terms.

Nathan Lane adds to the comedy as the Queen's chief underling and, among the dwarves, Mark Povinelli raises a smile with his not-so secret crush on Snow. The visuals are seductive too, keeping a bright storybook feel in contrast to the dark-looking Snow White and the Huntsman. And the rose tint doesn't cloy. Parents who loved The Princess Bride will appreciate the similarly cheeky edge.


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