John Hanlon Reviews

Film Reviews

Alice through the Looking Glass Review

Alice through the Looking Glass

Genre: Fantasy, Action and Adventure

Director: James Bobin

Cast: Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Mia Wasikowska, Rhys Ifan, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen, Alan Rickman, Stephen Fry, Michael Sheen, Timothy Spall

MPAA-Rating: PG

Release Date: May 27th, 2016

Alice through the Looking Glass is a dour and disappointing sequel to the colorful 2010 Tim Burton film.

The 2010 movie Alice in Wonderland was a fun little surprise. Starring Mia Wasikowska as Alice and Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, sickness the film brought Lewis Carroll’s well-known story to life with beautiful imagery and delightfully eccentric characters. On the the hand, story the sequel Alice Through the Looking Glass is a dour affair.

The film opens with Alice serving as a heroic captain on her late father’s ship. She’s confident and respected at sea but when she returns home, she realizes her family’s dire financial situation. Her family could lose their home. The situation keeps getting worse but Alice soon finds herself back in Wonderland, where she’s excited to reunite with her old friends.

What she finds is more discouragement.

The Mad Hatter (Depp), her friend from the original, has gone into a deep depression because he can’t mourning his lost family. In a bid to rescue him from this slump, Alice decides to visit the keeper of time itself (Sacha Baron Cohen) in order to go back and save the Hatter from his tragic past.

The screenplay by Linda Woolverton (adapted from Carroll’s novel) is a curious one. It takes for granted the elements that made the original film so enjoyable. One of those aspects was Depp’s fun and delightfully strange supporting performance. Depp’s affection for quirky characters can be grating at times but it worked well in the first film. In this sequel, his character’s depression is so prominent that it’s hard to watch this once beguiling character in dire straits.

For most of this film’s running time, the Hatter can’t overcome his misery.

It also doesn’t help that the plot feels so tired and recycled. Alice’s goal here is to go back in time to change the future — a plot device that feels overused and trite today. As with other features that focus on  that, Alice is faced with the typical problems that come with such a plan. If she accidentally changes the past, then she puts her entire future at risk. There are plenty of times that happens here but none of them really add anything unique or interesting to the proceedings.

Taking over the director’s chair from Tim Burton (who is known for his eccentric characters and for memorable production designs), director James Bobin doesn’t seem to add anything new in this sequel. There are a few memorable visual choices but overall, Bobin’s production doesn’t really build on Burton’s vision. It simply uses that vision to tell a very traditional and forgettable story.

At the story’s heart, there is a positive message about time though. Near the story’s beginning, Alice argues that “time is a thief” but eventually, she grows out of that thinking to recognize something more. There’s a solid message underlying this story but it’s hard to truly enjoy everything that surrounds that message.

The 2010 Alice in Wonderland production and Alice through the Looking Glass feature so many quirky and exciting supporting characters that should bring this story to life. In addition to the Mad Hatter, there’s the monstrous Iracebeth (Helena Bonham Carter, who still does a solid job as the larger—than-life villain), the goofy Tweedledee and Tweedledum (Matt Lucas) and the impatient rabbit Thackery (Paul Whitehouse). Because of this film’s tragedy-driven story, the excitement of seeing these characters is often overwhelmed. Your time would be better spent elsewhere.

Review by: John Hanlon