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Mirror Mirror
  • Composed by Alan Menken
  • Relativity Music Group / 2012 / 56:10

A live-action retelling of the Snow White story, Mirror Mirror is Indian director Tarsem Singh’s fourth film.  Julia Roberts plays the Queen, Lily Collins plays Snow White, and the film’s gone down well with its target audience (young children) despite most of the reviews thinking it wouldn’t.  When in 2000 I sat and watched The Cell, the thought that the director would one day make a mainstream film aimed at pre-teen girls with an Alan Menken score was a distant one indeed – but here it is.  Menken has won more Oscars than anyone else alive (eight) thanks to his incredibly successful collaboration with Disney, but has spent more of his time working on Broadway than in Hollywood in recent years.  This is the first time he’s scored a film for someone other than Disney in a couple of decades (intriguingly, he pushed to get the job of scoring Captain America last year after he was engaged to write a song – of course, that job ended up going to a different Alan, who did a good job, but it would have been fascinating to see how it would have turned out).

While it’s a bit of a departure for Menken in terms of the studio employing him, in truth of course the apple didn’t fall that far from the tree with this one – a retelling of Snow White is hardly taking him into unfamiliar territory.  There are big, sweet themes, an occasional female choir, an opulent waltz – ingredients that the composer’s fans will have expected, and of course he pulls them all off with great aplomb (think of Enchanted and Beauty and the Beast in particular).  But there’s more here than just that – and the fact that it is also pulled off with great aplomb is the most impressive thing, and there are moments (with some pretty heavy-duty action music) that suggests it wouldn’t have been such a stretch after all for him to score a project which went against type.

Alan Menken

The main theme is very lovely – all those Oscars on his shelf wouldn’t be there if he weren’t one of the world’s great tunesmiths – and it’s not overused, the composer developing various themes over the course of the score.  An early set-piece, “Beauty Treatment”, with its stylised choir, suggests we might be in for an Elfmanesque score, but that’s a red herring, proving to be a one-off.  In fact, large portions of the score are actually fairly straight, very good action music – “Dueling” is just wonderful, exciting and energetic, even including a little Hispanic, Zorro-ish flair.  The lengthy climactic action piece, “Beast”, runs through a gamut of emotions and is also very impressive.  The pick of the melodic parts are that waltz (“The Ball”) plus the gorgeous piano-led “Breaking the Spell” and the six-minute finale “Happy End”, which sounds exactly like a piece of music written by Alan Menken which is called “Happy End” should sound – subtlety is not the name of the game.

The album ends with a couple of versions of the same song, written of course by Menken, “I Believe In Love” sung by the film’s star Collins, the “Mirror Mirror mix” and the “Evil Queen mix” – there doesn’t seem to be all that much difference between them (they both have an unexpected hint of Bollywood about them) and placing them together at the end rather than putting one of them at the start seems a strange decision.  (It’s no Menken classic anyway – the lyrics are too insipid – but is enjoyable enough.)  This is a fine album – the stuff within the composer’s comfort zone as impressive as ever, the stuff when he steps outside unexpectedly just as good – and it would be great to think that it might lead to a few more scores like this for him to do.  ****

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  1. Mastadge (Reply) on Saturday 24 March, 2012 at 15:31

    The movie looks so awful the score was completely off my radar. Glad to hear it’s a good one!

  2. Karl Morton IV (Reply) on Sunday 25 March, 2012 at 04:56

    I’m sorry people aren’t willing to give the movie a chance – shows what a marketing campaign can do to brainwash the unsuspecting, I suppose.

  3. Mastadge (Reply) on Sunday 25 March, 2012 at 13:04

    Oh, I’ll give it a chance — I respect Tarsem’s first two films enough that he hasn’t lost me yet — but the marketing for this movie really has been spectacularly awful. It’s not about “brainwashing” but about being given far more reasons not to want to spend money on a ticket than reasons to wish to do so.

  4. Ryo (Reply) on Sunday 25 March, 2012 at 13:51

    I watched the movie 2 times. it’s a really good movie. Alan Menken’s score is awesome as well. Mastadge, maybe u should wait until u watch it before commenting. don’t judge movies with trailers.

  5. Mastadge (Reply) on Sunday 25 March, 2012 at 17:48


    1) I haven’t judged the movie; I have only expressed that, based on the marketing, this movie looks awful. I don’t understand why anyone would take exception to that.

    2) Considering that the purpose of the marketing is to get butts in seats, I can only assume from the horrible marketing that either (a) this movie is being targeted at people who are not me, or (b) there is little about this movie that makes me want to see it, or (c) some combination of the above.

    But perhaps I misunderstand. Judging from Ryo and Karl’s comments, it seems that the actual purpose of advertising is not to get people to go to movies but to brainwash people into staying away from movies. Perhaps the studios are afraid there’s so much demand for their product that the theaters won’t be able to accommodate all the potential customers, so they’re trying, via the trailers, to convince the easily swayed to stay home to forestall riots?

  6. Joel G (Reply) on Monday 26 March, 2012 at 05:27

    Good review James. I was actually really excited when I heard Menken was assigned to this, and sounds like he delivers. The film itself looks atrocious (and that’s considering I’m a huge fan of fairy tales in general, and love Tarsem’s visual style (though his lack of storytelling ability is just painful)).

    Really excited to give this score a listen. I’ve always thought Menken has some real skill with score writing (obviously songs as well), although certainly some of his earlier Disney score sections often suffered from simplistic writing and small orchestras, though his later Disney scores certainly have a fuller cinematic sound. Interesting that this isn’t a Disney film, though it certainly fits into that cartoony fairy tale mould, so not a radical departure. Anyways, can’t wait to hear it, glad to know something good came out of this film.

  7. nya (Reply) on Monday 26 March, 2012 at 07:17

    The song I Believe in Love is NOT written by Menken.

  8. lami (Reply) on Friday 22 June, 2012 at 18:13

    The movie is worth watching both for kids n parents and music is superb lulling.

  9. Loved it!!! (Reply) on Sunday 10 February, 2013 at 01:51

    The trialer was the reason I wanted to see the movie… because of Julia Roberts. It looked like fun, and it was. I liked it alot and plan to buy it.

  10. Caleb (Reply) on Sunday 25 May, 2014 at 13:26

    FYI, Menken did not write the last two songs. They were written in the 1970’s by an office woman named Nina Hart. There’s a big article about it on the Huffington Post.