[This post was originally published on the Parentonomics blog at Forbes on 15th April 2012]
This weekend we took the kids (13, 11 and 7) to see Mirror, Mirror; the new Snow White comedy starring Julia Roberts and Nathan Lane. Now you might think that I would be able to review this movie without giving away plot details. After all, you all know the plot, right?
Well, think again. Now the basics are still there. The Queen (Julia Roberts) is jealous of Snow White and orders her killed. That leads to her meeting the Seven Dwarves and then eventually setting in a sequence of events that unseats the Queen. Oh yes, and there is a prince that is a big part of the picture. But otherwise, things evolve rather differently.
As one would hope for in a modern retelling of a fairy tale, the princess -- here Snow White -- is quite independent (a la Fiona in Shrek or Drew Barrymore's Cinderella inEver After). Now that often means that the prince has to be relegated to some form of uselessness. Not this time. The writers go to great lengths to put the two on an equal footing which is more that can be said for the prince in his battles with the dwarves. For me, there was a struggle in achieving that but, for my kids, they loved the whole thing; and we have a mix of a girl, a boy and another girl who would ordinarily refuse to admit she enjoyed any movie with a princess other than Leia.
This movie also retained the interest of the adults. Now the idea there was to have the story told from the Queen's perspective. If it were truly an adult movie that might have allowed some sympathy for her, for example, a background story that made us understand how she came to be so vain. But no. The Queen is a wretched as she is in Disney or any other version of Snow White. And what that means is that she is not the sole focus of attention and the story drifts well towards the third person. This is somewhat disappointing as it is that challenge that would have made this terrific for adults. In the end, we are left to appreciate some quite funny moments and the little points where the retelling differed from what we had experienced in the past.
Now my criteria for kids movies is simple: you want to take kids to the ones that are enjoyable and hope to fog your kids off on the ones that are excruciating for adults. On that score, for Mirror Mirror you want to be strategic. Offer to take your kid's friends to this one and allow them to 'return the favor' for some other movie (not Brave of course) in the summer.