Alice Through the Looking Glass

 photo alice_through_the_looking_glass_ver8_zpsia3k2lst.jpg photo starrating-1andahalfstars.jpgHow to explain when a movie goes from being merely bad, to an out-and-out assault on the senses. That is the conundrum I’m faced with trying to make sense of Alice Through the Looking Glass. This is the followup to Tim Burton’s wildly successful hit that came out in the spring of 2010. Alice in Wonderland remarkably made $334 million in the U.S. alone. It was the 2nd biggest hit of that year (behind Toy Story 3), so you knew it was only a matter of time before they would make a sequel. Why it took more than half a decade is a question for Tim Burton. Highly successful screenwriter for Disney, Linda Wolverton (Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King), is back, however Tim Burton is only a producer this time around. Apparently he really didn’t want to helm another one. The director’s job has been delegated to James Bobin (The Muppets, Muppets Most Wanted). On paper, that sounds promising. I mildly enjoyed the original and was at least prepared to delight in the artistry of a sequel.

Flamboyance is the recipe again but magnified to the tenth power. That’s hard to imagine. The first was hardly a model of restraint, but it still had some semblance of a story. Although Alice in Wonderland threw out the plot of the book, it kept the characters and amped up the crazy. What it lacked in dramatic coherence it made up for in visual spectacle. So what exactly is the plot in the current installment? That’s a very good question. I still don’t have a good answer. Lewis Carroll’s book dealt with Alice’s attempts to become a Queen. His novel exploited the game of chess as a metaphor for the lack of control she had over the direction of her own life. An overriding theme concerned the feeling of loneliness as one grows older.

Linda Woolverton’s screenplay for Alice Through the Looking Glass has nothing to do with any of that. Ok fine, but what does it concern? The action inexplicably starts out on a ship in the ocean with Alice as the captain trying to outrun a trio of pirates. It’s a loud, chaotic beginning that feels like the climax of a completely different film. Then on to some nonsense regarding her ex-fiancé, Hamish Ascot (Leo Bill), and an exchange of that ship for her home. What does it all mean? Doesn’t really matter because everything is thrown aside when she walks through a mirror and ends up in Wonderland. The Mad Matter’s family is missing and Alice agrees to help. From what I can glean, this is the true thrust of the narrative. First, she visits a character called Time. He’s some bizarre demigod played by Sacha Baron Cohen in the only performance that manages to gain a modicum of our interest. He relishes the part and his commitment is palpable. Next Alice steals the Chronosphere and promptly travels back in time to change the past right after being told that is forbidden. Here the developments resemble Muppet Babies as we get junior versions of the Red Queen, the White Queen and the Mad Hatter. More stuff happens involving their childhood. The Jabberwocky appears. Alice wakes up in a mental hospital, diagnosed with female hysteria.  That’s not how it ends.  She goes back to Wonderland.  Yup again.

Alice Through the Looking Glass is a wackadoodle free-for-all with a CGI budget that’s roughly the GDP of an island nation. Every scene of this haphazardly plotted film bursts with more computer generated imagery than the human eye can even absorb. Each display vies for the viewer’s attention as effect is heaped upon effect. One exhibition competes with the next for space within the frame. There is little relief from the uninterrupted excess. The crowded extravaganza is so staggeringly overindulgent, it’s vulgar. I’ve played with kaleidoscopes that had a more coherent narrative. Meanwhile Johnny Depp minces with abandon as the Mad Hatter, lisping all the while in another fey performance so cloying it inspired me to brush my teeth afterward for fear I might get cavities. Helena Bonham Carter, so wonderful as the Red Queen in the last film, bickers with her sister to the point of annoyance. Her decades old hate for her sibling, the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), revealed as having originated as a lie to the question “Who ate these tarts?”  There is little story. Just effects. Alice Through The Looking Glass is stridently obscene in its desire to distract and confuse. The production is focused on satiating the basest component of visual desire and nothing more. It’s offensive.

05-26-16

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17 Responses to “Alice Through the Looking Glass”

  1. smilingldsgirl Says:

    I like your Muppet Babies line. It really is a bad movie. When an entire plot revolves around fessing up over eating desserts you know you are in trouble…

  2. ‘wackadoodle free-for-all’, I loved that line. Don’t think I’ll be going to see this movie.

  3. Great review! It’s good to know that I can skip this one!

  4. It seemed like they had three ideas for a plot, figured no one would care for any of them, so they just crammed them all together. I loved the clockwork castle, but the movie didn’t have a very high opinion of its viewers’ intelligence.

    • Time’s clockwork castle was an interesting set design. With the gears turning and pendulums swinging everywhere, it reminded me of the Tick Tock Clock course from Super Mario 64. But there was too much. Less is more. We needed some quiet scenes in between so we could appreciate that production design more.

  5. Style over substance to the 10th degree. Too bad. Damn CGI ruining everything.

    • Yes. The over reliance on CGI completely quashed this film. It was “Van Helsing” bad. Maybe it was to distract from the weak storyline. Ok so she lied about the tarts. Get over it.

  6. Hmmm. . . I think I”ll see this.

    No, just kidding. This isn’t the ringing endorsement that would get me to see past my disgust for Tim Burton’s weird CGI-saturated gothic animations that always feature Depp doing something inane. This was a pretty cathartic read though, especially the line about having to brush your teeth aftewards lol

  7. […] exploration of what seems like a terrible film – Mark of Fast Film Reviews recently reviewed Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016), and it sounds horrible. I found the first of the two Alice films difficult to watch because […]

  8. This was not good. Actually you described everything I felt. Just a mess of a movie. 1 1/2 stars. Looked colorful.

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