Alice Through the Looking Glass starts out with one of the best, most riveting pirate ship chases I’ve ever seen, promising Alice (Mia Wasikowska) as a kickass heroine on a first rate adventure. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t keep that promise.
This plot is not from any particular Lewis Carroll book, but “features characters” from his beloved stories. The genius, wit and warmth of Carroll’s writing and Tim Burton’s intriguing and original charm in Disney’s Alice in Wonderland of a few years back are not mirrored in this follow-up.
Oh sure, the same actors are back playing the beloved characters; Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen, Anne Hathaway as the White one, and Matt Lucas as odd but endearing Tweedeldee and Tweedledum, not to mention a magical Cheshire Cat, voiced by Stephen Fry. The costumes and makeup are extraordinary. And in the very beginning of Alice Through the Looking Glass, we hear the unmistakable voice of Alan Rickman, which gives the film a particular poignancy.
The characters’ relationships and interaction are what we found so compelling, but in Alice Through the Looking Glass, the personal stuff quickly takes a backseat to the action. Alice hurtles, relentlessly hurtles, through time, which is sort of a difficult concept to grasp, because Sasha Baron Cohen actually plays Time. Well, he’s more of a timekeeper, but his character is not well defined, and a real missed opportunity. At least he’s always up for a chase.
To give the action some sort of purpose, it seems everyone in Underland is attempting to resolve deep-seated family issues, and most, especially “Hatter’s,” are not fun and whimsical. In fact, I found Depp’s Mad Hatter to be creepy and puerile rather than compelling and sympathetic. The whole plot, for that matter, is quite juvenile, void of much interest for adults.
Now in its favor, if you see it in IMAX 3D, you will be treated to absolutely spectacular visuals and production design. Disney’s vast resources are all plainly visible on the screen, and they are awe inspiring. Still, I think Alice Through the Looking Glass just might be Disney’s first flop of the year. It had a meager 27 percent fresh Rotten Tomatoes rating last time I checked, and while it will likely clear $50 million opening Memorial Day weekend, I predict that like the quality of the film, the quality the box-office proceeds will not come close to the Tim Burton original.
1 Hour 48 Minutes
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ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS Review — An Unflattering Reflection
by Lisa Johnson Mandell