"Alice Through the Looking Glass"
Release Date: May 27, 2016
Running Time: 113 minutes
Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland certainly lacked his trademark quirky humor, and suffered for it, but there’s no denying he created a wonderfully weird Wonderland that proved to be so rich and inviting in 3D. Its inhabitants also were quite memorable, with the exception of the bright-orange, frizzy-haired Mad Hatter, who remains Johnny Depp’s most irritating eccentric to date. All in all, Burton managed to put his stamp on his version of the Lewis Carroll novel—however mixed the results were—and in the process validated Disney’s agenda to produce live-action versions of its best-known animated adventures. Burton only serves as the producer of the lackluster sequel Alice Through the Looking Glass, and his absence behind the cameras is noticeable. James Bobin did an admirable job with The Muppets and Muppets Most Wanted, but he doesn’t possess Burton’s unique voice or unconventional visual style. To be fair, not many directors do, so Bobin does face the challenge to trying to top anything that Burton did before him. He fails to bring much of a personality to a tiring time-traveling tale that focuses on Alice’s efforts to prevent the Mad Hatter’s family from perishing during an attack on their village by the Red Queen’s beloved Jabberwocky. However, Bobin gives Alice Through the Looking Glass a bright, clean look that makes it more approachable than Alice in Wonderland. He’s also working from a fairly straight-forward script by Linda Woolverton that refuses to get overly clever or convoluted in regards to Alice’s journey back to the past. Woolverton, though, borrows too heavily from her script for Maleficent in Alice Through the Looking Glass’ bid to reveal the Red Queen’s origin and humanize her in the process. Can’t we have a Disney villain who remains pure evil personified? In addition to the Red Queen, Mia Wasikowska’s Alice must contend with Sacha Baron Cohen’s Time. He isn’t a true villain—he just wants to stop Alice from going back in time and causing all sorts of mayhem that would impact the present and the future. And, quite frankly, Alice is being selfish in her desire to change time. It’s all well and good to help a friend, one who is sinking deeper and deeper into depression, but it’s another not to consider the global ramifications. Much like Alice in Wonderland, this sequel does little to make Alice more than a spectator to her own adventure beyond setting off a chain of events that allows the Red Queen to exact revenge against those who banished her from her kingdom. Of course, Bobin and Woolverton let Alice off the hook for her bad decisions, so there are no real lessons learned. Alice’s return to Wonderland is bookended by a subplot that addresses the sexism of late-19th-century England. Bobin and Woolverton don’t see a need to tie Alice’s fight against male chauvinism to the events in Wonderland either overtly or covertly. Which is odd considering Wonderland is ruled by powerful women. The parallels are there for Bobin and Woolverton to drawn from, but they seem more concerned about putting the Red Queen on the couch. If Helena Bonham-Carter is delightfully maniacal again as the Red Queen, Anne Hathaway fades into the background as the nice but nondescript White Queen. Depp remains truly annoying as the Mad Hatter—more so given the guilt trip he lays on Alice in regards to saving his family—and Baron Cohen doesn’t generate a single laugh as Time despite sounding suspiciously like iconic German director Werner Herzog. As for the likes of Absolem, the Cheshire Cat, the White Rabbit and Tweedledum and Tweedledee, they are pushed so far into the background that you wonder whether they still reside in Wonderland. No matter. The return visit to Wonderland rarely, if all, indulges in the curiouser and curiouser.
Aired: May 26, 2016
Web site: http://movies.disney.com/alice-through-the-looking-glass