Director: James Bobin
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen, Anne Hathaway, Matt Lucas, Stephen Fry, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall

You can add Alice Through the Looking Glass to that growing list of sequels that are completely unnecessary and have nothing new to offer. Alice (Wasikowska) has been spending time out on the high seas as the captain of her father’s ship. When she arrives back in London, she is told she must sign away her ship for which she refuses due to the connection it has with her father. How convenient for her that throughout this legal ordeal she finds a magical mirror leading to an alternate reality. She slowly steps through the looking glass and shrinks down to pint-sized. It’s not long before she’s reunited with her old friends, the Cheshire Cat (Fry), White Rabbit (Sheen), Tweedledee/Tweedledum (Lucas), and of course the White Queen (Hathaway). During their tea party, Alice learns that the Mad Hatter (Depp) has not been himself lately. He finds an old hat he made when he was a kid which recalls memories of the tragic death of his family. He now believes they may be alive, and that Alice could be his only hope of bringing them back again. Alice has always been someone who is driven to do the impossible. She attempts to find the character of Time who is part human, part clock and is the keeper of a time machine called the Chronosphere. She must find the device to go back in time and save Mad Hatter’s family.

Can we all think back to the 2010 film Alice in Wonderland from director Tim Burton? Maybe you don’t want to remember that film. I certainly don’t blame you as it was a low point in his career. Here he’s only credited as one of the film’s producers as he has passed along the directing duties to James Bobin (Muppets Most Wanted). Was anyone really looking for a sequel? Yet here we are as Disney made enough money to feed a small country from that film. I believe that was the start of their current trend of turning their animated classics into live action films. The quality of those that came after (Cinderella, The Jungle Book) has been far better. I have come to determine that easy money is the sole reason why Disney decided to go back and make a sequel to Alice. Through the Looking Glass also acts as part prequel as it looks back at the younger versions of many of the characters and how they became the Red Queen, White Queen, and Mad Hatter. Again, these are back stories that I don’t care about. Screenwriter Linda Woolverton (who also penned the first film) chose not to follow the actual book of the same title. This version has a very light and colorful tone compared to the darker world of Lewis Carroll’s books. The woman next to me stood up as the end credits rolled and exhaustedly stated it had nothing to do with Lewis Carroll. The script only succeeds when Woolverton tries to add some wit to it. She finds a few moments for creative wordplay and then overly relies on every metaphor created about time and clocks to poke fun at Sacha Baron Cohen’s character of Time.

One of the main reasons why I hated the first film was the over reliance on computer effects to bring these characters to life. It’s so CGI heavy that the final product is practically an animated film. If you’re going to recreate the imagination of Lewis Carroll, I want to see an actual set design. I want it to feel tangible, but instead it just felt like I was watching actors walk around in front of a green screen on fake sets the entire time. It’s not like this is some little indie film with a small budget. Disney should have spent the time and money to make this one look realistic in some regard. As a result, it winds up missing so much of the magic and wonder that comes with the material. Can’t we go back to the days of the Gene Wilder version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory or even the original Star Wars when you had to make models and props to bring these fantastical worlds to life?

Surprisingly enough all of the original cast came back for the sequel. I have the sneaky suspicion that their contracts from the first film had clauses about coming back for a potential sequel. Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter are trying to have fun as The Mad Hatter and The Red Queen, respectively, but they were better used in the first film. Mia Wasikowska has the strength and determination to play Alice but is forced into using an all too obvious fake British accent. New to the film is Sacha Baron Cohen as Time. He seems to be on complete autopilot through his performance as he uses a character voice and mannerisms we’ve seen from him before. Others like Anne Hathaway, Michael Sheen, Stephen Fry, and Alan Rickman are barely given anything to do in this film. How do you have Stephen Fry voice the Cheshire Cat and not use him properly?

It’s never a good sign that two of the best qualities of the film don’t really have anything to do with the actual movie itself. It’s easy to get sucked into the Disney opening theme as the camera circles in on Cinderella’s castle. The next best part of Alice Through the Looking Glass comes with P!nk’s song “Just Like Fire” that plays over the end credits. Another high point is the stunning Colleen Atwood costume design. Her costumes were also the highlight of The Huntsman: Winter’s War which bombed a few months ago. Atwood provides rich palettes and opposing structures and fabrics depending on the character. This sequel will only appeal to little kids whose parents will just have to grin and bear it when they take their kids to the theater.

Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? Read Lewis Carroll’s books instead


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