Alice Through the Looking Glass
Director(s): James Bobin
Writer(s): Linda Woolverton
Cast: Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Sacha Baron Cohen, Rhys Ifans, Matt Lucas, Lindsay Duncan, Leo Bill, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Paul Whitehouse, Stephen Fry, Barbara Windsor and Michael Sheen
Reviewed by: Ian Evans on
Release Date(s)May 27, 2016 - Wide
When Alice in Wonderland was released in 2010, it went on to earn over a billion dollars, so it’s a natural conclusion that they’d want a sequel. It’s too bad that the sequel, Alice Through the Looking Glass, is such a mess.
Tim Burton moves to the producer’s seat this time, handing the reins of the film over to Muppets Most Wanted director James Bobin, who worked from a script by returning scribe Linda Woolverton. The special effects team worked overtime to create a visually busy environment but all the sights, sounds and 3D magic can’t take away from the fact that the plot cupboard is threadbare.
Alice Kingsleigh (Mia Wasikowska), now captaining her late father’s ship, has been plying the trade routes of China and using her spectacular naval skills to evade pirates. Returning home, she discovers that her oafish former fiancé, Hamish (Leo Bill), is now Lord Ascot and will evict her mother from the family home if Alice doesn’t give him the ship and take a menial job. While preparing to fight his attack on female empowerment, Alice is asked by the butterfly Absolem (the late Alan Rickman’s last role) to return to Underland through a mirror to save the Mad Hatter’s life.
Hatter (Johnny Depp) is sickened by the thought that his family — long-thought killed by the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) and her monstrous Jabberwocky — might actually be alive and no one believes him. He’s dying of sadness and the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) needs Alice to travel back in time to save the family. The only problem is that Time himself, a half-man, half-clockwork Sacha Baron Cohen, is in charge of the time machine Alice needs and he’s not about to let her use it.
In execution it comes off like a deadly boring video game. There are chase sequences that hint at possible action and adventure but then there are moments and scenes and back stories that come off with all the mirth of a funeral. I found my mind drifting and pondered if I was actually watching actors waiting for someone to yell “Action!” so that they could start.
Mia Wasikowska is tasked with playing the strong female that Disney likes to market. She’s fully capable of doing so and she’s believable as a strong-willed and highly-skilled captain, but as soon as she enters the Hatter’s world she seems to be more of an observer. Hathaway’s White Queen is the opposite of power as, despite being the ruler of the realm, she appears that she could be blown away by a light breeze or sneeze.
There’s a bit of menace with Sacha Baron Cohen’s steampunk-inspired, German-accented Time and his dark world of past and future, life and death, but that is offset by his oddly cute and marketing department ready minions, the Seconds, who look like they’re just waiting for approval to head off to the shelves of toy stores. The most appreciated scenery chewing comes from Helena Bonham Carter’s Red Queen, the angry sister of the White Queen who loves to lop off people’s heads. She’s loud, she’s brash, she’s petulant…but again she’s not really given much to do and her back story is ripped straight from a Dr. Phil episode.
And that brings us to Johnny Depp. In Tim Burton’s Alice tale, he was acid trip quirky, a ball of energy. Like many recent Depp performances, this current Hatter is just a ball of affectations that are meant to remind us of his past energy and let our memories make up for a lack of a performance. I’m not saying that Depp phoned in his performance. I’m saying that he wrote it down, gave it to a Depp impersonator and they phoned it in. To add insult to injury, given that Alice does most of her questing solo, it feels like the Hatter is more of an extended cameo.
Sadly, you might be better off giving this one a miss.