Friday, May 27

Alice Through The Looking Glass Review

Alice Through the Looking Glass
Dir: James Bobin
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, and Sacha Baron Cohen

There is a moment in “Alice Through the Looking Glass”, Disney’s sequel to 2010’s “Alice in Wonderland”, when the adventurous, strong-willed Alice commands a crew of men aboard a ship away from the attacks of charging pirates by going through treacherous terrain and narrowly escaping. Alice, in this moment in time, is living the fairy-tale life she has always chased, a life where the word “impossible” holds no merit. Unfortunately, in the next moment in time, she is back in the structured Victorian era reality of her hometown being laughed at by a group of businessmen who inform her that a woman’s place is not as a captain of a ship.

The aspects of time and authority play a big role in director James Bobin’s adaptation, a term used very loosely here, of Lewis Carroll’s novel “Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There”. Time, as Alice (Mia Wasikowska) muses, is a villain. One that stole the time she had with her father and continues to take from her life the older she becomes. Authority, especially with relationships, continues to manipulate Alice in ways that trouble and confuse her. The relationship with her mother (Lindsay Duncan), who has always wanted Alice to be a different kind of woman, is strained and filled with misunderstandings. While they both love and care for another, neither of them completely understand one another. Alice’s former fiancé Hamish (Leo Bill), an irksome and cowardly chauvinistic man, is still sore from being left at the alter by Alice. Hamish now runs the company that owns Alice’s ship; he tries to manipulate Alice into a desk job that he deems “fitting” for a woman. 

Just when things couldn’t get much worse for Alice, friends from the past, from her adventures in Wonderland, send for help. Abosolem (voiced by the late Alan Rickman) guides Alice through a mirror and into the realm of Wonderland. The Hatter (Johnny Depp) is in grave danger after finding an object from his past that leads him to believe his family, who were killed by the winged Jabberwocky, are still alive. Alice must travel through time to save Wonderland and her friends.

There is a great cast of actors seen and heard throughout “Alice Through the Looking Glass”. The roles they are tasked to play in this film may not always fit the talent that they have displayed in other roles; still it’s nice to see all these accomplished actors working. The voice work boasts the talents of Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Stephen Fry, and Michael Sheen to name a few. The actors on screen are Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter, Rhys Ifans, and Sacha Baron Cohen. That is an impressive cast. Too bad the product here wasn’t better suited to their talents.

 Johnny Depp was a struggle to watch as The Hatter in the first film, he is even harder to watch in this sequel. Anne Hathaway has a small but doesn’t do much except say a few lines with a heavy whimsical tone. Sacha Baron Cohen comes in to play the physical personification of Time; living in a castle-like structure that is shaped like a clock, the actor adds his signature comedic style throughout his scenes to garner a few laughs. Mia Wasikowska, who plays Alice with a mix of elegance and awkwardness, has a great presence on screening and holds many of the scenes together. These are exceptionally talented people operating in a story that is messy, contrived, and lacking in any kind of depth that makes the characters endearing.

Any character development or subtle emotional moment within a scene is consumed by the overindulgence of computer-generated effects. It’s hard to fault a film that is trying to create scenes of wonder and enchantment through physical structures and characters, the big and boisterous and blossoming scenery works when utilized in small amounts. Still, this extravagance of effects becomes distracting and takes away significantly from the characters in the film. Again, this is a film that consistently references the aspect of time and how it affects our lives in ways we may never understand, how we struggle with time taken away by death, how we struggle with aging. It’s a film that displays the structures of authority through relationships between a father and son, a mother and daughter, and two siblings. These are compelling aspects of storytelling that could have been utilized. While one could say that I am expecting too much from what is ultimately a children’s story, Pixar and Studio Ghibli have been making children’s stories with very mature subject matter for years with great success.

“Alice Through the Looking Glass” has small moments of potential; unfortunately these moments happen when Alice isn't in Wonderland. At nearly two hours in length the film struggles to stay afloat. This was partly because it exaggerated everything the first film did wrong and partly because it squandered good source material and exceptional actors in favor of unnecessary extravagance.

Monte’s Rating

1.75 out of 5.00

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