MOVIE THEATER REVIEW: Yesterday I saw “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” which stars Mia Wasikowska (Crimson Peak, Stoker), Johnny Depp (Black Mass, The Lone Ranger ), Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat, Bruno), Helena Bonham Carter (Fight Club, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix), Anne Hathaway (Interstellar, The Dark Knight Rises), Matt Lucas (Bridesmaids, Little Britain [TV series]), Rhys Ifans (The Amazing Spider-Man , Notting Hill), Lindsay Duncan (Birdman: Or [The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance], About Time), Leo Bill (28 Days Later…, The Fall), Timothy Spall (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Enchanted), Paul Whitehouse (Corpse Bride, Finding Neverland), Stephen Fry (QI [TV series], V for Vendetta), Barbara Windsor (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, EastEnders [TV series]), Matt Vogel (The Muppets , Muppets Most Wanted), and Alan Rickman (Die Hard, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2). It is directed by James Bobin (The Muppets , Flight of the Concords [TV series]), with the screenplay being written by Linda Woolverton (The Lion King, Maleficent). Alice (Wasikowska) travels back to Wonderland after a long time away, only to find that the Mad Hatter (Depp) is terribly sad. So sad, in fact, that he is dying. All because no one believes that his family, who were killed by a Jabberwocky, are actually alive. It is up to Alice to find out what happened to his family before the Mad Hatter himself dies.
One feature film that I was subconsciously anticipating for in 2016 was “Alice Through the Looking Glass.” The trailers for the movie looked enticing and I enjoyed the first one, that being 2010’s live-action remake of “Alice in Wonderland.” It had a different, unique tone and flavor, presenting me an adventure full of fun treats. Tim Burton’s directing along with the great visuals really gave the release some heart and wonder, and I was actually excited to delve back into that world again. Granted, it’s been a terribly long time since I saw the first film, so I was a bit out of the loop on where the story left off going back in. Thankfully I had the Internet, so I read up on it before I walked into the theater. Now, I know what the critics have said about this. It was considered awful and the movie is barely making back the amount of money it took to make it. I tuned all of that out, however, for I told myself that there could be a possibility of it being good, at least for me. Almost two hours I sat in that theater, patient and open-minded of what I was seeing. Walking out of that experience, I can tell you that it is not the heaping pile of garbage critics are telling you, but it isn’t that good either. It’s been six years since Alice has revisited Wonderland; far too long if a company wants to make as much money as a film’s predecessor (not many seemed to keep interest by this time). However, six years can be a way of telling us that the writer took time on their script, perfecting it in any way they could. Yeah…I’m gonna go with the reasoning that Disney shelved it for other projects instead. This plot, although heartfelt and meaning well, didn’t quite land, and for many reasons. My big issue with this release had to be its many conflicting story arcs. At only an hour and forty-eight minutes (including credits) this film had a lot of excess to cram into its shallow plot line. You have the initial story arc with the Hatter being sad, one about Alice and her troubles in the real world, one involving the Red Queen (Bonham Carter) once again, and another including Time (Baron Cohen) himself. So much is said and done in so little time that once I reached the third act it was like I was watching another movie. Seriously guys. By the time they circled back around to the starting story arc I thought to myself “oh yeah, I forgot about that problem.” It was unbelievable, but that’s not to say that this movie was obnoxious in this matter. I found entertainment and I will admit that these many storylines did have some interesting aspects. I just wish that they developed them in a different film, most importantly the Red Queen one (the likelihood of that happening is very small even if they went that route). With so much to cover, this flick had to keep pace, as it was incredibly fast. One minute I was watching the beginning and the next I was nearing the end of the second act. This can be both a pro and a con. It’s good that it isn’t sluggish, but it’s bad that I can’t take time to catch my breath. There is little room for development for any of our characters, and it’s only an ordeal of their situation than themselves. If the situations Alice went through held more weight, the shallow character development wouldn’t be much of an issue. What this story loved to do was explain to me everything that was going along. Along with the fact that this film had many story arcs, it was also all exposition. Characters will talk to themselves, revealing certain things that will push the plot along and everything that is done physically is soon followed up by an explanation from a character. It’s hard to tell what audience the writer was shooting for, but apparently she wanted to release this movie to complete idiots. I don’t want a film to explain everything to me. Finally, my last grief with the plot is its ending. Goodness gracious, could you have not asked for a more picture-perfect finale? I like happy endings as much as the next guy, but good grief this movie sugar-coated it’s ending to the point of exhaustion. Everyone got their way, bad people turned good, and things that didn’t make much sense were left unsaid with a smile (if you remember what Alice’s resolution in her own world was, you would know what I’m talking about). It’s like the writer knew she was making something that wouldn’t sell, so they hurriedly sewed up all of the conflicts so there would be nothing to come back to. I get it, and they were smart to do so after looking at their box office haul so far. But I would rather have a gratifying finale that can hold forever than one that satisfies the youngsters at this moment. Outside of the story, there are still some issues; mostly nitpicks. Looking at the special effects, it can be half-and-half. Most of the time I liked the CGI. It’s one of those stories that writes towards visual effects well, and I couldn’t have it any other way. There are some instances where the CGI is pretty cringeworthy though. Some scenes can clearly look like they were done in front of a green screen or some characters will look totally animated. In fact, all characters who were CGI did not look realistic. I could tell they were animated, but in the case of this universe of Wonderland I let a few things slide (what can I say? I have a soft spot for Wonderland). The new director of this, James Bobin, did well with what he had. I liked his cinematography and the color palate he used with this was beautiful. Wonderland looked mystical and when Alice went back in time, I really liked the streets she walked. The clothing and setting were all nice and unique. Too bad mostly everything was animated, or I would’ve been able to watch this as more of a fake time-period piece. If there is anything I can say good about “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” it’s that I was entertained. Be it as it may, I found some enjoyment in this, and I guess that goes to my love for this universe. I liked how this film’s story is innocent in that it feels like a children’s book (I mean, Alice’s first problem to accomplish is making the Hatter happy). That kind of stuff can make one feel warm and fuzzy inside, but I just wish that it had enough grip or audacity to balance that out. It got to be too sugary at times, over-complicating things and explaining them all too much. I wanted to love this movie, but unfortunately I left the theater only feeling hollow with what I saw. Disney is supposed to wow, not leave viewers empty of both money and soul. I wish only the best for this franchise, as I doubt it will move forward. FINAL SCORE: 69%= Burnt Popcorn
Here is the trailer: