It’s so difficult to make a self-aware medieval comedy. For the best success, you go with low-key humor like in the classic The Princess Bride. But many studios today want jokes that are circa 2011 (never mind that they’ll be dated later) or so much slapstick that the characters’ nuances get lost for a cheap laugh. The Shrek movies excelled at this, but their live-action counterparts have mostly failed: Ella Enchanted, Your Highness, Black Knight.
The Brothers Grimm is a toss-up, if only because I so want a movie with Heath Ledger and Matt Damon to be remembered fondly.
And now we have Mirror Mirror, Relativity Media‘s take on Snow White starring Lily Collins and Armie Hammer. And as the evil queen — the character who brought on this post — is Julia Roberts, snarking about her younger, prettier rival.
At first I was prepared to compare this trailer to the one for Snow White and the Huntsman, because both focus heavily on the evil queens and their need for beauty. But it’s clear that the movies will be drastically different: Charlize Theron will stab anyone in her way in an almost psychotic compulsion to be the best, whereas Julia’s queen is a sarcastic bitch akin to Susan Sarandon‘s version in Enchanted. (And that’s a compliment!) So I figured it made more sense to comment within the genre that Mirror Mirror is trying to infiltrate.
It makes sense—the movie is directed by Tarsem Singh, who brought us the unintentionally hilarious Greek epic battle movie Immortals last week. Mirror Mirror seems to be employing a mix of one-liners and witty exchanges, mostly involving Julia’s queen or the dwarves, depending on the scene. Even Prince Charming, Armie Hammer, gets dragged into the bad slapstick, when the queen accidentally doses him with a puppy love charm and he pants all over her.
You start to get the uncomfortable impression that these actors are better than this; that’s how I felt while watching Anne Hathaway and Hugh Dancy struggle to make Ella Enchanted palatable way back when. However, the sheer scope of Mirror Mirror makes it look like visually it’s going to be a good movie. So if we have to deal with a few jokes that are lame or land awkwardly, it’s not the worst thing in the world.
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