ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS:
BIG ON PRETTY VISUALS, BUT SHORT ON STORY!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: C (2 ½ stars)
The White Queen, Alice, Mad Hatter, Time, and the Red Queen battling across time in Alice Through the Looking Glass
Here we go, the sequel to the 2010 live-action re-imagining of Disney’s animated feature based on the Alice in Wonderland book. Basically this is the film that started the whole live-action remakes of Disney animated films trend, but they didn’t gain positive critical reception until last year’s Cinderella and last month’s The Jungle Book, in the director’s chair was cinematic nutcase and one of my favorite directors of all time, Tim Burton (Batman, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Frankenweenie) and starred Mia Wasikowska (Albert Nobbs, Anna Karenina, Crimson Peak) as Alice.
The film was a huge hit at the box office in 2010 and was one of the films that heavily advertised its use of 3D technology, which completely sold everyone because this came out a few months after James Cameron’s Avatar, which perfected the use of 3D in theaters and breathed new life into it, now it’s everywhere. Despite the film bringing in the green magic, the film received mixed reviews from critics and fans of the original book pretty much ripped it a new one, I can understand why believe it or not.
I don’t hate the movie or anything, but I do acknowledge that the film is undeniably flawed and I get why fans of the book disliked it. It’s been a while since I last read the book or watch the original Disney animated film, but being a die-hard Tim Burton fan, I thought it was okay, not even close to being one of my all-time favorites but none of Burton’s films would make it onto my worst films of all-time list, no, not even his Planet of the Apes remake.
Due to its success, we have the sequel, Alice Through the Looking Glass, with Burton returning as a producer and Wasikowska returning as Alice, but this time we have James Bobin (Da Ali G Show, The Muppets, Muppets Most Wanted) in the director’s chair. And it’s definitely a step backwards from the 2010 film, the film is visually appealing and some of the characters get a laugh, but the plot is very standard, not very interesting, and as the film progresses it gets pretty ridiculous.
After the defeat of the Jabberwocky, we find Alice spending the last three years following in her father’s footsteps and sailing the high seas. Once she gets to London she learns that her ex-fiancé, Hamish Ascot (Leo Bill-28 Days Later, Doctor Who, Mr. Turner) has taken over his father’s company and plans to get Alice to sell her father’s ship to him in exchange for her family home (Yeah, he’s basically our villain).
Alice follows a butterfly through a magic mirror and she ends up back in Wonderland (PS: I refuse to call it Underland!) where she is greeted by the White Rabbit (voiced by Michael Sheen-The Queen, Frost/Nixon, Tron: Legacy), Cheshire Cat (voiced by Stephen Fry-Wilde, Gosford Park, The Hobbit 2 and 3), Bayard the Bloodhound (voiced by Timothy Spall-Harry Potter franchise, Enchanted, Mr. Turner), Mallymkun the Doormouse (voiced by Barbara Windsor-Chitty Chitty Bang Bang), the March Hare (voiced by Paul Whitehouse-Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Finding Neverland, Corpse Bride), Absolem the Butterfly (voiced by the late, great, Alan Rickman-Die Hard, Harry Potter franchise, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street), Tweedledee and Tweedledum (Matt Lucas-Shaun of the Dead, Portlandia, Doctor Who), and the White Queen (Anne Hathaway-Get Smart, The Dark Knight Rises, Les Miserables), and just in time because it’s apparently Tea Time.
Alice’s friends inform her that something strange is going on with the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp-Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Pirates of the Caribbean franchise), apparently he’s become very sad and depressed due to something terrible that happened in the past, so he basically shut himself out from Wonderland and nobody knows why.
So it’s up to Alice and her friends to find the almighty man who’s always on “Time” literally named Time (Sacha Baron Cohen-Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Borat, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street) who controls time and all the clocks in the world, and convince him to send them back in time to end the tragic event that is nigh.
Meanwhile the sinister Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter-Harry Potter franchise, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride) is out for revenge on Alice and the White Queen for killing the Jabberwocky and taking the throne from her, which she claims is rightfully hers.
Overall, Alice Through the Looking Glass is all over the place in terms of story development. Don’t worry, there are good moments in the film like the backstories of the Mad Hatter and Red Queen, you understand why the characters are who they are and it manages to make you feel teary-eyed at times (Yeah, a Johnny Depp clown and a queen with a hilariously large head will make you cry!).
Unfortunately, the film goes from colorful eye-candy to ridiculous ideas, apparently Time has a bunch of living clocks and metal appliances that can transform into giant robots (When did this become Transformers in Wonderland?). But aside from that, the story is heavily recycled from other popular ideas like Back to the Future, The Hobbit, and did I mention Transformers?
But what did keep me in theater were some of the characters, the Red Queen, Mad Hatter, March Hare, and Time get some good laughs. I love most of the actors in this film, Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter are two of my favorite actors and it’s usually thanks to Tim Burton’s films that they become favorites of mine, well him and the filmmakers behind Pirates of the Caribbean.
I can’t say it did nothing for me, the movie is impressive in visuals and animation, the characters are funny, and there are some interesting ideas throughout the film (I didn’t say good things, but interesting ones). It probably won’t sit well with fans of the book, but if you’re a die-hard Tim Burton fan, you’ll probably tolerate it, sorry Burton, better luck next time with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.