The last role one would have anticipated Julia Roberts in is as the Evil Queen in Snow White (though in a way, the Evil Queen is very much a prostitute à la Vivian in Pretty Woman with her willingness to peddle her body/looks in exchange for money). However, what allured Roberts to the film was director Tarsem Singh's attachment to the project. With his fame for lush, vividly visual movies like The Cell and The Fall, Mirror Mirror would seem to be the perfect vehicle for him to channel his Bollywood sensibilities into. Unfortunately, the only item worth looking at in this movie is Julia Roberts herself.
Opening with the acerbic narration of the Evil Queen (a.k.a. Queen Clementianna), she informs us that this is her story, not Snow White's. The narrative then segues into a scene with the Evil Queen playing a game of chess with human pawns as her right-hand bitch boy, Brighton (Nathan Lane), watches nervously. At the same time, Snow White (Lily Collins...yeah, Phil Collins' daughter), is stuck in her room, with only a bird that flies in from the window to keep her company (it's all a little too woe is me as she sweetly feeds the bird a slice of her apple).
Considering Julia Roberts has been on a cheesy movie bender (her past three films have included Valentine's Day, Eat Pray Love, and Larry Crowne), it makes sense that she would want to play the bitch character in a movie that is still highly jejune--but at least she's not the one delivering all of the cringe-worthy lines. That job is left strictly to Snow White, Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer), and the seven dwarves, whose names have been altered to the following: Half Pint (Mark Povinelli), Grub (Joe Gnoffo), Grimm (Danny Woodburn), Wolf (Sebastian Saraceno), Butcher (Martin Klebba), Chuckles (Ronald Lee Clark), and Napoleon (Jordan Prentice). The reason behind the name changes is beyond me, but it doesn't change the intense rapport (perhaps suspiciously intense) that Snow White shares with her brethren of dwarves after she finds herself lost in the woods.
Before her foray into the outside world, however, Snow White attempts to ask the Evil Queen if she can go to the party that evening since it is, after all, her eighteenth birthday, but the Evil Queen merely scolds her for being "irritating." When Snow White's only loyal servant, Margaret (Mare Winningham, who I can only look at and think of St. Elmo's Fire), encourages her to go into town and see what the Evil Queen has done to the kingdom that rightfully belongs to Snow White, she heeds the advice, heading into the woods in order to get there. On her way, she encounters two men hanging upside down from a tree. The men in question are Prince Alcott and his valet, who have been robbed and looted by a group of bandits (the seven dwarves--on stilts).
The immediate attraction between Snow White and the prince is undeniable--though neither of them is aware that the other is royalty. In spite of wanting to get to know one another better, Snow White continues in the direction of the town, while the prince heads toward the Evil Queen's castle. They each find different horrors at their respective destinations: For Snow White, it is the sight of the townspeople completely destitute, for the prince it is the conniving, gold digging Evil Queen. It is not until that evening at the Evil Queen's costume ball that Snow White realizes the true identity of the prince. Upon learning who he is, she asks him to help her restore the kingdom, but before he can comply, the Evil Queen orders Brighton to take her into the woods and kill her.
Naturally, this execution never happens and Snow White is allowed to thrive among the community of her thieving dwarves, who teach her everything they know about stealing. The film then digresses into Robin Hood-esque territory as they steal back the tax money the Evil Queen has been taking from the commoners. At this point, Mirror Mirror has dragged on for far longer than necessary, especially when you consider the demographic it is aimed at (children have very short attention spans, you know).
While Singh's directorial prowess and visual singularity pervade the film, not to mention Julia Roberts' comedic timing as an additional buffer between the all-out badness of Mirror Mirror, it leaves one hoping that perhaps the next upcoming Snow White narrative (Snow White and the Huntsman, a more serious take on the story with Charlize Theron as the queen and Kristen Stewart as Snow White) won't be so embarrassingly trite.