Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016) by James Bobin
Review by Zach Dennis
It is only fitting that the plot of Alice Through the Looking Glass is centered around the concept of time because for a movie so enamored with this idea of recovering lost bits of it or enjoying the moments you have within it, it sure doesn’t value the time of the audience.
Alice Through the Looking Glass is one of the worst kinds of movies — one that is bad and disinterested in attempting to be anything resembling unique or creative. That’s saddening since it comes from a book overflowing with imagination, but lucky for Lewis Carroll, he is dead and doesn’t have to view the two hours of bastardization that transpire over the course of this sequel.
Following the events of the first movie, Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is returning home after years away working as the captain of her father’s ship. Upon her return, she learns that her former spurned lover, Hamish (Leo Bill), has taken over the trading company and has no plans to allow her to continue going on voyages, instead, is more keen to keep her locked up in an office job.
In true Alice fashion, she rejects this request and rushes off deep into the house where she is invited once again to travel to Wonderland to see her friends. Once she gets there, she learns that the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) has gone into a spiral of depression after finding what seemed to be the first hat he ever created for his father — signaling that his parents are indeed alive. In order to save the Hatter, Alice must journey to find Time (Sacha Baron Cohen) and convince him to hand over a time-traveling sphere, which is also the prize of the Queen of Hearts (Helena Bonham Carter).
Taking over as director for the departed Tim Burton is James Bobin and it is a travesty that he must work with this mangled plot and dictated production. Bobin, who cut his teeth with Flight of the Conchords and The Muppets, has shown both a comedic and whimsical grasp of directing, but is suffocated by what seems to be a retread of the previous overindulgence of fluff and pageantry.
The biggest indictment on this movie is not that it is unequivocally bad (which it is), but that it has no ambition to be something weird and courageous. Instead, it sticks mainly to the mold of the first outing and feels like a simmered version. Anne Hathaway returns (most likely reluctantly) as the White Queen with other characters from the first movie tagging along, but the whole thing feels more like a requirement rather than another endeavor into an exotic world.
Why am I expected to care what happens to these characters when nobody in this movie seems to care at all? Alice Through the Looking Glass features so many phoned in performances, someone should alert Robert De Niro that Dirty Grandpa and Grudge Match are in need of sequels because his recent title of the most phoned in actor is being challenged.
There just isn’t much to say about a movie that is so disinterested in being a part of the social consciousness. In the six years since the first movie, it seems like Disney has somewhat mastered the live-action re-telling of their animated movies with most of them garnering upcoming sequels as well, but if Through the Looking Glass is any measure, those will be uninspired as well.
It is interesting to me a week after talking about the progressiveness of Neighbors 2 that there seems to be a thin line of similar thinking among the plot of Through the Looking Glass. It says a lot about the social climate of modern society that movies coming out now have a rooted interest in saying something about female characters rather than sticking to what has been predominantly spoken about them in the years before.
Not to say that Through the Looking Glass is any precedent. The progressiveness in this movie is about on the scale of a first grader learning for the first time that she doesn’t have to take any crap from the annoying boy in her math class, but it shows that this way of thinking is starting to interject itself into the modern stratosphere. While this isn’t necessarily a major win for feminism and progressive thought, because it is done in such a pedestrian manner, there is a glimmer of hope that movement is taking place behind the scenes.
Alice Through the Looking Glass is a half-baked, snoozer of a movie that asks you why you hate yourself rather than anything constructive over the course of its two hour runtime. Maybe you hate yourself and this is your form of punishment upon your mental state, but if that’s the case, please seek out help and avoid any run-ins with this franchise.
You may need to call your doctor if you suffer from extreme mental lapses or judgmental errors while coming up with something positive to say about this movie. Seek medical help if you view this more than one time on accident.