Alice Through the Looking Glass (PG) ★½

‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’ stars Johnny Depp and Mia Wasikowska. Photo Credit: Disney Studio.

Don’t Waste Your ‘Time” On Yet Another Second-rate Sequel

Six years ago, many anxiously awaited director Tim Burton’s take on the wacky world of Alice. Equally so was the anticipation of Johnny Depp’s new redheaded, large green-eyed Mad Hatter portrayal. The wild frizzy red hair, colorful make-up, and Mad-Hatter-detailed costume were indeed tremendous. Depp’s performance was charming, silly and, yep, a bona fide nutcase, but above all, we knew he was Alice’s protector and friend. That film was both charming and entertaining; this one, sadly, is neither.

Alice Through the Looking Glass, directed by James Bobin, with a screenplay by Linda Woolverton, lacks any kind of cohesive narrative in developing characters, has too many random special effects scenes that don’t move the story line along, and perhaps the worst error is giving us a brooding Mad Hatter that’s clearly lost his pizzazz. Not to mention the inconsistencies in our main hero’s, Alice, played by Mia Wasikowska (Crimson Peak 2015), respective personality traits. Yes, she’s portrayed as strong, independent, and a leader, which I appreciated, but when is it okay to treat your mother so terribly? She actually shouts while furrowing her brow in a hurtful, mean-spirited tone, no less, and declares to her mother, “I never want to grow up and be like you!” This statement is in the first fifteen or so minutes of the film. Okay, so now the fun begins?

When we first meet Alice, she’s nineteen years old, captain of a large sailing ship out of London in the year 1874. She’s just returned from China. Her costume is made of exquisite, bright colors, Asian styling; the attention to detail is dazzling. Although she makes a rather bold statement in London’s stuffy high society, her choice to wear such a garment to a fancy party furthers our understanding of her independent spirit. Yes, we immediately champion the grown-up Alice, until she’s so terribly rude to her mother.

Alice, while being chased, disappears through a large mirror during the posh London party, taking us back to the magical fantasy world of Wonderland. The beautiful, delicate White Queen, Anne Hathaway, tells her the woes of the Mad Hatter. You see, he’s depressed about his family being killed years ago and has lost his will to live. Talk about a downer; he’s also surly and downright mean to Alice when she first tries to see him. Nope, we’re still not having fun.

The film does pick up with the addition of a new ultra-charismatic character, ‘Time,” played by Sacha Barron Cohen (The Brothers Grimsby 2016). His costuming is over-the-top: white tights to accentuate his long legs, black cape with huge shoulder pads, black, cone-shaped hat (think Queen Nefertiti), with the back of his head opened to expose metal gears, cogs, and wheels. ‘Time” literally is ticking away, right before our eyes. He does have a love interest of sorts, The Red Queen (Helen Bonham Carter). Her scene stealing runs rampant here as well.

Alice decides to “turn back time” and right a few wrongs. First, the death of the Mad Hatter’s family and, second, after finding out why the Red Queen’s head is so large, Alice takes on the challenge of righting that wrong as well. And how does Alice go back in time? First of all, she has to steal Time’s precious gadget, the Chronosphere, which powers all time in Underland allowing her to travel through Time itself. Unfortunately, this is another downer to the already overstuffed film. She’s placed inside a poorly designed special effects world containing a sea of time and travels in a large sphere that she navigates like a ship; after all, she is a high seas captain. All of this action serves to take away from the narrative that was enduring to the original film. Not to mention, it’s downright boring.

Does Alice get out of a frightening “mental asylum” in which she’s diagnosed with female hysteria? (Sorry, I forgot to mention that inappropriate scene that’s actually in a child’s fairy tale film.) Does Alice save the Mad Hatter’s family? Does the Red Queen change her attitude? Does ‘Time” ever stop chasing Alice? Does Alice reconcile with her mother? Is Alice ever out of danger? Do all live happily ever after? In this film, these questions don’t really matter because by the time we finally get to the ending, we just don’t care. A huge disappointment to be sure, as this film should have been epic with all the elaborate costuming, unique characters, set designs, A-list actors, and our fondness of the Lewis Carroll novels.

On a sad note, this is Alan Rickman’s, the voice of the Cheshire Cat, last film; he passed away this year.

The Bottom-Line? Fantastic costuming, set design and A-list actors can’t save the over-stuffed special effects and lack of narrative.

Cast: Johnny Depp, (The Mad Hatter), Mia Wasikowska, (Alice)
Helen Bonham Carter, (The Red Queen-Iracebeth), Anne Hathaway (The White Queen- Mirana), Sacha Baron Cohen (Time), Alan Rickman (Absolem / Blue Caterpillar)

Credits: Director (James Bobin), Screenplay Writer (Linda Woolverton)

Studio: Disney Studio

Run Time: 1 hour 53 minutes
Sarah Knight Adamson© May 27, 2016