Review: Alice Through the Looking Glass
PLOT: Alice (Mia Wasikowska) returns to Wonderland only to discover that her friend, The Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), is ailing. In order to save him, Alice must travel back-in-time to rescue his presumed dead family, but she’s pursued by a vengeful Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) and Time-itself (Sacha Baron Cohen) throughout her dangerous quest.
REVIEW: Was anyone really clamoring for a sequel to 2010’s ALICE IN WONDERLAND other than Johnny Depp’s agents? While a billion dollar smash upon its release (although take into consideration it came out in the early days of the 3D revival) most consider it to be the nadir of both Depp and director Tim Burton’s respective careers. As such, Burton’s opted-out of the “six years later” sequel, which sees THE MUPPETS director James Bobin take over.
While not a household name, Bobin’s got an interesting resume which includes creating Flight of the Conchords, as well as a hand in developing Sacha Baron Cohen’s Ali G, Borat and Bruno characters. Other than a co-starring part for Cohen, ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS lacks a real imprint from this new director. Instead, it’s as generic and unnecessary as a sequel could be, with a muddled plot, some lackluster performances and very little in the way of truly innovative eye-candy.
It doesn’t help that, at twenty-six, Wasikowska seems far too much of an adult to play the somewhat precocious Victorian child of Lewis Carroll's novels. When we’re introduced to her this time, she’s a pioneer sea captain fighting pirates. Here, Wasikowska fits-in. But as the movie goes on and she re-enters Wonderland, saying things like “curious and curiouser” she seems way too adult, and perhaps if she had a somewhat more mature trip into this world it would have been more effective.
To that end, there are flashes of a potentially more exciting Alice adventure, such as an episode that sees her committed to a grimy asylum under the care of Sherlock’s Andrew Scott, who treats her for “female hysteria.” Yet, even this is made irrelevant in that her escape is so simple and any notion of her being mentally ill is dropped in the cuddly, family-friendly conclusion.
Of course, ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS is supposed to be a kids film but even they might be bored by the lackluster action sequences, which pale in comparison to the massive family tent poles Disney has specialized-in since 2010’s version of ALICE. Compared to THE JUNGLE BOOK this seems almost primitive. Older audiences might get a kick out of the psychedelic visuals, although it’s worth noting that they’re far less effective here than in the well-assembled trailer innovatively cut to a cover of Jefferson Airplane’s ‘White Rabbit.’
LOOKING GLASS is harmed by an especially lazy premise, where Alice goes back in time to rescue The Mad Hatter’s family – something which sidelines top-billed Depp for most of the movie, making his part come-off as little more than a glorified cameo. Considering that he’s basically doing shtick now that’s not as fatal as it sounds, with Sacha Baron Cohen as the Swiss-accented Time (get it – because he’s a walking clock) more fun to watch as he chews the scenery. Eventually all the crisscrossing and parallel timelines become difficult to keep straight. Is a kid’s movie supposed to be this confusing? The nightmare fodder of the creepy Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum (whose constant presence made my friend cringe in horror throughout) and a weird scene where the Red Queen (a hammy Helena Bonham Carter) eats the nose of a vegetable soldier makes the intended audience even more confounding. It’s worth noting that for adults drawn-in by the big names from the original, Anne Hathaway is present only here-and-there, while the late Alan Rickman’s vocal cameo is sadly brief.
While never impossible to sit-through and probably decent enough that it’ll do respectable worldwide box-office, ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS is nonetheless the kind of sequel that stops a franchise dead in its tracks. By the time Alice says to The Mad Hatter, “I feel like I shall never see Wonderland again,” you’ll be saying to yourself “God, I hope she’s right.”
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