If there’s one thing that I have to wonder about director James Bobin’s movie Alice Through the Looking Glass, it’s why the studio bothered giving it that title? If Disney was insistent on making a movie so far removed from the source material of Lewis Carroll’s classic children’s novel, why not call it Star Wars episode 7.5 or Avengers 3 or some other deceptive name that seemingly links it to another major franchise? Of course the obvious answer is that the first movie made a billion dollars, so they were looking for ways to continue to capitalize on it. However, in terms of its relationship to the book that it takes its name from, they really could have called it just about anything!
Comparisons to Lewis Carroll aside, the question becomes is the movie any good? If you saw Tim Burton’s 2010 Alice in Wonderland and you liked it, then odds are pretty good you will enjoy this one as well. It has the same over-the-top performances, colorful sets, elaborate special effects, and dizzying 3D. If, like me, you didn’t care for the first film then this one is more of the same. More frenzied action at the expense of character development, more overdone CGI that overwhelms any moments of tension or feeling that the film wants to build, more bland and obnoxious characters that it’s impossible to become emotionally invested in.
The story is pure formula, paint-by-numbers, to anyone who’s familiar with genre fare. Alice travels through a mirror to find herself back in Wonderland where she goes to see her friend, the Mad Hatter. The Hatter has found evidence that leads him to believe his family, long thought dead, is really alive. When Alice responds that what he’s telling her is impossible he becomes angry, accusing her of not really being who she claims because the “real Alice” would never think that anything is impossible. To make up for this slight, Alice decides to go on a quest to meet Time himself (personified by Sacha Baron Cohen) and steal away a device that will allow her to restore the Hatter family. Needless to say things go awry, amidst much action and CGI, and Alice finds herself in a position of having to work doubly hard to reset the world to the way it’s supposed to be.
I do have to concede that some of the visuals are fun to look at, if you’re willing to turn your brain off and simply take in the sensory stimulation. For that alone I’ll give the film an extra star. Otherwise, it’s a standard big budget Hollywood production that overwhelms the characters and the narrative with an overabundance of quick-cut action sequences and computer generated special effects, making for an empty and hollow film-going experience.
Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars
Alice Kingsleigh (Wasikowska) has spent the past few years following in her father’s footsteps and sailing the high seas. Upon her return to London, she comes across a magical looking glass and returns to the fantastical realm of Underland and her friends the White Rabbit (Sheen), Absolem (Rickman), the Cheshire Cat (Fry) and the Mad Hatter (Depp), who is not himself. The Hatter has lost his Muchness, so Mirana (Hathaway) sends Alice on a quest to borrow the Chronosphere, a metallic globe inside the chamber of the Grand Clock which powers all time. Returning to the past, she comes across friends – and enemies – at different points in their lives, and embarks on a perilous race to save the Hatter before time runs out.
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy
Cast: Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Mia Wasikowska, Alan Rickman, Sacha Baron Cohen
Director: James Bobin
Producer: Tim Burton, Joe Roth, Jennifer Todd, Suzanne Todd
Executive Producer: John G. Scotti
Screenplay by: Linda Woolverton
Written by: Lewis Carroll