Working with fairytales takes a certain sort of movie magic to get right. Mirror Mirror must have skipped out on its spell-making class, as it fails to come up with the goods necessary to be a star pupil.

In this offering from director Tarsem Singh, the evil stepmother Queen (Julia Roberts) wants to get rid of her stepdaughter Snow (Lily Collins) in order to remain the most beautiful woman in the kingdom.

The Queen has kept Snow locked up in her bedroom since her father died, but once she turns 18, she turfs her out into the forest to be killed. But lo and behold... Snow survives and happens upon the seven dwarves.

However in this tale, instead of singing miners who whistle as they head off to work, the dwarves are seven bandits who are quite happy to rob anyone who happens to cross their snow-covered path, including the Prince (Armie Hammer).

Left without his clothes, the Prince is rescued by Snow, and then arrives on the doorstep of the Queen, looking for some clothes.

Both ladies – the Queen and Snow – fall for the Prince and battle for his affections. Snow’s story also has a twist, as instead of cooking and cleaning for her seven friends, she must try to save her starving kingdom from her evil stepmother.

While there are several laughs, mostly provided by the Queen’s butler (Nathan Lane), there is not enough to say this is a comedy. And yet, as fairytales go, Mirror Mirror's rather drippy script doesn’t make it a credible modernisation of the classic.

I found myself the whole time willing Julia Roberts to give more to her performance, which was completely lacklustre. Whether it was the direction she received, or the lack of an imaginative script, it really felt there was something missing from her usual stellar turns.

Lily Collins was super sweet and polite - even when battling the baddies - which became a little irritating at times. Armie Hammer’s performance as the Prince offered some comedic moments, but became repetitive and waned halfway through the movie.

The set design and costumes saved Mirror Mirror from getting a two-star rating – colourfully spectacular in a Tim Burton-esque kind of way. Princess gowns and sumptuous palaces were in abundance, and they at least made the movie feel like a fairytale.

Suzanne Byrne