Sunday, June 19, 2016

Alice Through the Looking Glass fails to shine through

movie review

Alice Through the Looking Glass

Starring: Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Mia Wasikowska, Matt Lucas, Rhys Ifans, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen, Alan Rickman, Stephen Fry, Michael Sheen, and Timothy Spall
Directed by: James Bobin
Taglines: This spring, it's time for a little madness. 

Six years after Tim Burton brought his rendition of Alice’s adventures in Wonderland to the big screen, director James Bobin continues the peculiar tale in Alice Through the Looking Glass, a fantasy romp inspired by, but not quite based on, the well-known Lewis Carroll novel.

After sailing the high seas, the brave and worldly Alice (Mia Wasikowska) returns to London, only to find herself forced to choose between giving up her beloved ship, The Wonder, or losing her mother’s house. But, as luck would have it, she soon finds a way to, once again, escape to Underland, where she is reunited with familiar faces, including the White Rabbit (Michael Sheen), the Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry), Tweedledum and Tweedledee (Matt Lucas), and the White Queen (Anne Hathaway). Her Underland friends are worried about the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), who has “grown darker, less dafter” and “denies himself laughter”. To save the Hatter from fading away because of his sadness, Alice must find Time’s (Sacha Baron Cohen) castle and borrow the Chronosphere that he possesses, then use this device to travel back in time to save the Hatter’s family from being killed, and thereby save him, all while trying “not to break the past, present, or future”.

The perfunctory yarn serves as an excuse to deliver the back-story of the Hatter while exploring the origin of the sibling rivalry between the White Queen and Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) and explaining why the latter is as angry and (literally) big-headed as she is. The lessons that are dispensed along the way are as tired as the time travel plot itself.

Alice Through the Looking Glass should have been a madcap lark, filled with joy and whimsy, but the filmmakers have robbed this quirky tale of its magic, producing instead a dull, predictable slog that amplifies everything that was annoying about its confusingly successful predecessor.

The cast can’t do much with Linda Woolverton’s flat, lacklustre script, but some of the actors still try to make the most of the material they have been given. Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen easily stand out and provide the most entertaining performances in the film. Mia Wasikowska, who might not seem like the best choice for Alice, is still quite charming in the lead role. It is touching to hear the voice of the late Alan Rickman (to whom the film is dedicated) as the caterpillar-turned-butterfly Absolem. Depp’s Hatter is more subdued here and doesn’t really have anything memorable to do, although the actor appears to be trying to deliver a performance nonetheless. Anne Hathaway, on the other hand, just seems to be going through the motions.

There are impressive visuals throughout this colourful film, but there is no depth beneath its shiny surface. Alice Through the Looking Glass ultimately comes off as just an attempt to cash-in on the success of the $1 billion grossing Alice in Wonderland (2010), as it delivers unnecessary back-story and fails to match the wit and playfulness of the absurdist tale that inspired it.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

- By Sameen Amer

Hi Five, The Express Tribune - 19th June, 2016

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