'Instant Family' Will Pull Your Heartstrings in a Good Way

What started as an older man’s joke about wanting to adopt a five-year-old instead of starting from scratch, Instant Family was inspired by writer and director Sean Anders’ real-life family. Pete (Mark Wahlberg) “accidentally” makes the joke to his wife Ellie (Rose Byrne) not wanting to be become that “old dad” everyone knows and before you know it, the two are traveling down to road toward foster care adoptions. After numerous classes taught by two caseworkers (Octavia Spencer and Tig Notaro), the two meet three kids at a “foster fair” gathering. Lizzy (Isabela Moner) is the 15-year-old older sister who has protectively looked after her younger siblings Juan (Gustavo Quiroz) and Lita (Julianna Gamiz) while their mother has been incarcerated. She’s a tough cookie with trust issues. Juan is both accident prone and highly sensitive and Lita is super sweet as long as she gets to eat potato chips at every meal. Almost overnight they become an “instant family” and everything g…

You Don't Need a Magic Mirror to Tell You That This Movie is Good

Julia Roberts and Lily Collins star in Relativity Media´s 
Mirror Mirror. Photo Credit: Jan Thijs.

One of the unique things about Grimm fairy tales is that over the years, there are dozens of different versions of the same story. Most of us have been raised on the Disney cartoon “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and in many minds; it is the only “correct” version of the story. However, if you can tear yourself away from that theory, you are bound to enjoy the new re-telling of the story, “Mirror, Mirror.” It follows the basic story line of Snow White losing her father at a young age and being raised by her evil stepmother. It also features seven dwarfs, a prince, a magic mirror and a poisoned apple, but each is told in a different way. Oh, and there is a mysterious and deadly beast in the forest.

The movie opens with the beautiful, yet evil, queen (Julia Roberts) telling the story of Snow White from her own point of view. Ms. Roberts is wonderful in this role and you can truly see that she enjoyed every minute of playing the part. She is incredibly condescending and cruel. Lily Collins (The Blind Side), still fairly unknown, was also an inspired choice. (In fact, according to IMDB, Lily was originally slated to play the role in the “Snow White and the Huntsman,” but lost the role to Kristen Stewart.) Her character is full of dreams but is also quite frail since her stepmother isn’t capable of loving her. She also hasn’t left the palace since her father was alive.

Soon, we meet Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) who is attacked by a band of bandits – seven dwarfs. This is an interesting twist to the story. Instead of diamond-seeking miners, the dwarfs are considered outcasts because of their “ugliness.” In order to survive, they must steal from others. The prince manages to find his way to the castle, in his underwear, to ask for help. The queen, who has just learned that she is bankrupted, plans to marry the prince and live off his money. And why not? She’s done that five times before. “No matter how many times I do it, I still get so excited on my wedding day,” she chirps in one scene.

Meanwhile, Snow is taken away from the palace and left to die, but discovers the home of the dwarfs where they take pity on her and teach her their ninja-like moves.

Rounding out the cast is Nathan Lane as Brighton, the queen’s right hand man, Mare Winningham as Baker Margeret and a “paler” version of Julia Roberts plays the magic mirror.

“Mirror” is a movie that they whole family can see. It is rated PG for some cartoon-type violence, but that is it. It isn’t too scary for little ones and isn’t too slap-sticky for their parents. It isn’t a musical, but it does have a Bollywood ending during the credits where Collins sings, “I Believe in Love.” This isn’t surprising coming from the daughter of Phil Collins.

“Mirror” has a few nice messages in it. For one, magic takes a backseat. It is frowned upon while working through something the hard way is applauded. It also can be used as a lesson that there are consequences to your actions; even if you are the queen. Feminists will be happy to see that Snow White isn’t completely helpless and learns how to fight like a man. Anti-feminists will be happy to see that Snow doesn’t rescue the prince, but that they both save each other.

“Mirror” is colorful and beautiful to look at and is sure to become a classic. Even an evil queen would approve. The most surprising thing about this movie is who wrote it. Jason Keller, known for writing the screenplay for “Machine Gun Preacher” also wrote the script to this one!

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