Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Movie Review #430: "Alice Through the Looking Glass" (2016)

Movie"Alice Through the Looking Glass"
Director: James Bobin
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hour, 53 minutes
Image Source
Alice (Mia Wasikowska), now a merchant ship captain in danger of losing her ship, follows Absolem the butterfly (Alan Rickman) through a mirror back into Underland. Once there, she learns that Hatter (Johnny Depp) needs help because he believes his dead family is actually alive. When Alice thinks he is delusional and doesn't believe him, he falls gravely ill. Now, Alice has a plan to steal the chronosphere from Time (Sacha Baron Cohen), which will allow her to go back into the past and save the Hatter's family before they are killed and make his delusions true so he will get better.

Oh boy.

Disney's "Alice Through the Looking Glass" is a sequel to Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland," which was actually a sequel (of sorts) to Lewis Carroll's book "Through the Looking Glass," which was a follow-up to Lewis Carroll's book "The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland." James Bobin takes over the directorial duties for this sequel that brings us back to Underland. This shift in directors is most likely because Helena Bonham Carter and former director Tim Burton split up between the making of both films.

Much of the original cast has returned, including Mia Wasikowska as Alice, who is now a strong-willed captain of the merchant sailing ship that used to be her father's, named the Wonder. HA! Johnny Depp also reprises his role as the ever-annoying, vastly overused Mad Hatter. It's interesting to note Depp is billed above Mia Wasikowska in a movie called "Alice Through the Looking Glass." What?! Helena Bonham Carter returns as the villainous Red Queen Iracebeth, though she is given a bit of a different twist this time around. Anne Hathaway once again plays the White Queen Mirana, though she feels like a shoved in afterthought for some reason, and of course, the late Alan Rickman plays a much smaller part as Absolem the butterfly in this his final cinematic role. New to the cast, and a very welcome addition we might add, who aids in making this entire thing even moderately tolerable is Sacha Baron Cohen, who plays the all powerful Time. If we had to guess, many parents are probably turned off by the prospect of Cohen as the villain of this picture, since, you know, he's the same man who brought audiences the likes of "Borat" and "Bruno" Rest assured, Cohen keeps his naked sidekick and his exercise bikes at home for this one.

If you have seen the trailer, it makes it seems as if the character of Time is the villain of this film, which is not true at all. Time is no villain, and in many ways, Time is actually trying to save the world when Alice disrupts everything by stealing the chronosphere, which will send her back in time to help her re-do the Hatter's past in order to save his family. Time is actually quite a humorous, sympathetic character, and he is definitely the shiny spot on this large turd of a film. We wanted more time with Time, and he is by far the most captivating character in all of Underland. Speaking of sympathetic, the writers attempt to make the Red Queen a sympathetic figure as well, as her past is revealed and explained in detail despite her being the closest thing they have to a villain.

This is one of those movies where every problem that needs to be overcome by the protagonist is created by the protagonist. In an effort to help the Hatter, Alice is the reason everything keeps turning sour, and she actually makes matters worse more often than not. In turn, this makes the whole plot more of a personal journey for her where she learns life lessons along the way. Though "Looking Glass" attempts to claw some sort of emotion and depth out of this time travel twist, it comes off as vapid more than anything. It's all surface level emotion with no true meaning or profundity. On top of that, the story is so contrived. It isn't all that compelling, doesn't do or say anything new, and eventually becomes completely predictable. In fact, the most enthralling part of it all (besides the character of Time, as we mentioned) is the revelation that Alice is now a sea captain, which is merely a footnote at the beginning and end to give her something to do before and after her visit to Underland.

The best part of "Alice Through the Looking Glass" is its stunning, striking visuals. Unlike the original movie, the CGI here is much more clean and crisp. The vibrant colors bounce from one transition to the next and they don't feel the least bit dated. These are the visuals we wish we had seen the first time around but failed to get as they looked more like what you'd find from a mid-2000's clunker. What a massive step up in the graphics department. Unfortunately, no amount of cool visuals can make us get over how stupid the story is at the end of the day. We rolled our eyes dozens of times while watching this, and we really wanted to like this movie better than 2010's endeavor into Wonderland.

Even with Sacha Baron Cohen dragging the occasional chuckle out of us, these instances alone were not enough to make "Alice Through the Looking Glass" a worthwhile watch. Really, this sequel is simply forgettable, and judging by its opening weekend box office numbers, most of the movie going public felt the same way. This flick is already on its way to being one of 2016's biggest domestic turkeys, and it's only been out one flippin' week.

My Rating: 4/10
BigJ's Rating: 4/10
IMDB's Rating: ~6.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~30%
Do we recommend this movie: No.

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