May 27, 2016

Alice Through the Looking Glass

Me thinks power has gone to her head

Grade: C –
Director: James Bobin
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen
MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hr. 53 min.

The Hatter (Johnny Depp) is more sad than mad in Alice Through the Looking Glass, just like the film itself. Director James Bobin strains to retain the abstract milieu of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, but anything resembling a cohesive plot or character development gets chucked down a rabbit hole.

After spending three years following in her late father’s footsteps by sailing the high seas as a ship captain, Alice Kingsleigh (Mia Wasikowska) returns to London to find that her widowed mother faces losing her home unless Alice signs over her boat to former fiancé Hamish (Leo Bill), who also wants to consign Alice to a clerk job. Angry at her mother (why?), Alice is visited by caterpillar-turned butterfly Abolem (voice by the late Alan Rickman), who directs Alice to a mirror that serves as a portal back to Wonderland.

Once there, Alice finds a melancholy Mad Hatter, disconsolate after uncovering an article of clothing that reminds him of his family, which were killed by the Jabberwocky when owned by the defrocked Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter). The Hatter believes his family is alive, but nobody believes him. Egged on by the White Rabbit (Michael Sheen), Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry), Tweedledee and Tweedledum (Matt Lucas), Alice visits the castle of Time (Sacha Baron Cohen), a half-man, half-machine immortal that oversees the Great Clock, powered by a widget called a Chronosphere. Alice decides to travel back in time to save the Hatter’s family, so she steals the Chronosphere and, in so doing, basically imperils Time’s lifespan and the entire universe.

Alice Through the Looking Glass is a collage of colors, strung together by a convoluted, time-skipping narrative and surface-level characterizations. The performances are exercises in high camp, from Hathaway’s flighty White Queen, to Baron Cohen’s Germanic fusspot, to Depp’s lisping fop. Alice is tediously boring when not being recklessly self-indulgent and misguided. Only Bonham Carter’s delightfully manic Iracebeth makes the film worth watching, but her evil is inexplicably neutered by an ill-advised origin story.

The film is ultimately a lot of sound and silliness signifying nothing but a boring world where emotions are superficial and perfunctory. In other words, everything that Lewis Carroll’s writings are not.

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