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Alice Through the Looking Glass (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 24, 2023

Alice Through the Looking Glass

Alice Through the Looking Glass


Starring Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Sacha Baron Cohen, Rhys Ifans, Matt Lucas, Lindsay Duncan, Leo Bill, Geraldine James, Andrew Scott, Richard Armitage, Ed Speleers, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Paul Whitehouse, Stephen Fry, Barbara Windsor, Michael Sheen and Matt Vogel.

Screenplay by Linda Woolverton.

Directed by James Bobin.

Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures.  113 minutes.  Rated PG-13.

I’m not sure that the world has been waiting around for a sequel to Tim Burton’s flawed but relatively popular reboot of Lewis Carroll’s classic stories.  This is particularly true six years after Burton’s Alice in Wonderland opened to lukewarm reviews and fairly decent crowds, but has since been long forgotten.  Add to this the fact that Burton has become an adaptation machine and decided to turn his quirky imagination to neuter some other classic tales: the hit YA novel Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and a sequel to his own classic Beetlejuice are next in line.

However, the Disney Studios are determined that none of their classic titles will be left to rest on their laurels for too long, so here we go back into the rabbit hole.  Hard on the footsteps of Jon Favreau’s surprisingly popular live-action reboot of The Jungle Book, here comes the latest installment of the Alice saga.

For better or worse, almost the original reboot’s entire cast is back – Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, et al.  Yet, the new director James Bobin (Muppets Most Wanted, Flight of the Conchords) has pulled off a pretty interesting trick here.  Alice Through the Looking Glass is even more visually stunning and arrestingly action-packed than the Burton film, and at the same time the storyline is even more ridiculous, stilted and eventually anti-climactic.

Alice Through the Looking Glass is a special effects reel in search of a plot.  I’m not even necessarily asking for a coherent plot – this is Lewis Carroll, after all – but something less tedious than this must have been possible.

Strangely enough, Alice Through the Looking Glass opens up on a scene that appears to have sailed in from Johnny Depp’s other Disney franchise – The Pirates of the Caribbean – a full-on sea battle between sailors and pirates which seems like something we’ve seen dozens of times before.

It is here that Alice Through the Looking Glass makes its first lethal error – the sweet ringlet-haired child from Carroll’s imagination has somehow grown up to become a hardened sea captain and explorer – in a time when if a woman were allowed on a ship it would only be as a passenger, wife, cook or prostitute, many times all three at once.  But somehow – some misplaced 21st century girl power, I guess? – our Alice has become a hardened old salt and explorer.  And no one, particularly not her, considers it odd.  Peculiarer and peculiarer.

Once our heroine moves back into Wonderland, the wheels come off the cart.  All of Alice’s old friends – The White Queen, the hare, the dormouse, Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle Dum, the Cheshire Cat, etc. – are concerned because the Mad Hatter seems to have come down with a serious case of the blues.

Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter is an odd conundrum, the movie revolves around people moving time, heaven and Earth trying to save his happiness and yet he barely even registers a pulse in the movie.  Once his horrific problem is brought to light – his family, who he thought was killed by a jabberwocky decades before may still be alive – it is both unbelievable and at the same time horribly clichéd.  And once the family’s evil fate is finally revealed, well… it’s kind of stupid.

Therefore, Alice must win a battle against Time (literally, Time is in human form played by Sacha Baron Cohen) hopping back and forth through the years to change history and keep the Red Queen from destroying Wonderland and having the Jabberwocky kill the Hatter’s whole brood due to an imagined slight.

By the time the story wound down, I was all whimsied out.  You can look at Alice Through the Looking Glass, but you may not like what looks back at you.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2016 All rights reserved. Posted: May 26, 2016.

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