Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Alas, Pretty Woman's new movie isn't the fairest of them all ...

But Julia Roberts' winning performance as the Wicked Queen helps rescue this fairytale remake, says Damon Smith

Julia Roberts, Lily Collins, Armie Hammer, Nathan Lane, Jordan Prentice, Martin Klebba, Ronald Lee Clark, Danny Woodburn, Joe Gnoffo, Mark Povinelli, Sebastian Saraceno, Robert Emms, Mare Winningham, Sean Bean, Director: Tarsem Singh Dhandwar

Julia Roberts has a blast as the pantomime villainess in this comedic reworking of the classic fairy tale Snow White by the Brothers Grimm. The Oscar-winning actress vamps, pouts and flounces around in fabulous frocks, and provides the droll voiceover that lays the foundations of the familiar and rickety plot.

"They called her Snow White, which was probably the most pretentious name they could come up with," Roberts sneers, her waspish words accompanied by a slick animated prologue that sows the seeds of animosity between the wicked Queen and her impossibly pretty stepdaughter.

"Snow would have to do what snow does best. Snow would have to fall," she concludes with menacing intent.

Once upon a time, The King (Sean Bean) is presumed dead so his second wife, The Queen (Roberts), seizes the throne and turns her beautiful teenage stepdaughter, Snow White (Lily Collins), into a recluse.

Hunky Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) and his manservant Renbock (Robert Emms) arrive at the palace and the Queen decides a love match is in order.

"The prince is rich, he's built like an ox, I intend to marry him and all my financial problems will be over," she excitedly tells her bumbling manservant, Brighton (Nathan Lane).

However, the Queen cannot risk Snow White stealing her thunder. So the scheming monarch banishes Snow White to the forest, where the young lady will be easy pickings for the carnivorous beast that lives there.

Unbeknown to the Queen, Snow White is rescued by seven plucky dwarves: Napoleon (Jordan Prentice), Butcher (Martin Klebba), Chuckles (Ronald Lee Clark), Grimm (Danny Woodburn), Grub (Joe Gnoffo), Half Pint (Mark Povinelli) and Wolf (Sebastian Saraceno).

They teach the pretty princess to fend for herself and, armed with her favourite dagger, Snow White returns to the court to reclaim the throne, banish the Queen and win the heart of Prince Alcott.

Mirror Mirror is an effervescent and occasionally uproarious romp, which references the familiar elements including an enchanted looking glass and a poisoned apple.

Collins and Hammer are rather bland as the much-abused heroine and her gallant prince, whose chaste love blossoms in adversity.

However, Roberts and Lane are a hoot, milking generous laughs from Melissa Wallack and Jason Keller's uneven script, which strives for, but falls short of, the dazzling irreverence of The Princess Bride.

Occasionally, the screenwriters' wit bites, such as when Snow White dares to take on the beast alone, supplanting the dashing prince as the valiant hero, and he pleads for her to kowtow to fairy-tale convention because "it's been focus-tested and it works!"

But it's just a little bizarre when a Bollywood-style number plays over the end credits as the film-makers' attempt at a happy ever after.

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