"Alice Through the Looking Glass" stars Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, and Sacha Baron Cohen. Released on May 27, 2016, the film has Alice returning to Wonderland to help the Mad Hatter.
The film is directed by James Bobin, who also directed The Muppets and Muppets Most Wanted. It is loosely based on 'Through the Looking-Glass' by Lewis Carroll and a sequel to the 2010 film, Alice in Wonderland, which was directed by Tim Burton. It's been a while since I saw the live-action version of Alice in Wonderland, but I did remember liking the visuals and Johnny Depp's portrayal of the Mad Hatter. Tim Burton's Alice became a box office sensation when it was first released despite its mixed reception, setting the stage for Disney to make live-action re-imaginings of their beloved animated classics, such as Maleficent, Cinderella, The Jungle Book, and the upcoming Beauty and the Beast. Their latest addition in that collection takes us back to Wonderland in a brand new adventure that involves….wait for it…time travel. No, I'm serious, it's a time-travelling movie set in a fantasy world. But is it the sequel that we truly wanted even though the original wasn't well received by critics? To answer that question, I invited my mother to help review this film with me.
The performances in the film were respectable, with the main cast returning to their roles from the first film. Wasikowska was decent as Alice, Depp still fits the role as the Hatter, and Bonham Carter likes to yell a lot as the Red Queen (or Iracebeth). Sacha Baron Cohen plays the new character known as Time, who is the ruler of the time in Wonderland, or Underland as the film likes to call it. I honestly thought he was pretty good in the role in terms of his portrayal and the character design. The CGI Wonderland creatures also made a return, such as Absolem (voiced by the late Alan Rickman). Unfortunately, they appeared to have smaller roles compared to the first film. The visuals and the settings were once again dazzling and colorful. When you look at the first film's visuals, they showcase the feeling of Wonderland as a place of ruin and dread due to the Red Queen's tyranny. It clearly shows how much has changed since Alice first visited Wonderland as a child. Here, the visuals showcase the world as a colorful and more endearing place, and I thought they did a nice job creating that world. The tone is clearly much different as well. Tim Burton is known for directing movies that have a creepy, yet unusual vibe, which was incorporated in Alice in Wonderland. When you have a different director to helm the sequel like Bobin, the man behind the recent Muppet films, the result is much different than you imagined. I do feel that the tone for this one is a hit-and-miss. While it's a bit less scary than the original, which is good for the younger viewers, it can turn some people off with its childish vibe.
The story is also a hit-and-miss. It's very simple for the kids to follow, along with some decent pacing, but it wasn't as deep as the message it delivered. The message was very thoughtful as it involves time. I was hoping that the story didn't come off as one of the episodes of an educational children's show.
Mom: I definitely agree that this story was much lighter than the first. It kept me engaged throughout the film not only with the interactions between the characters but the scenery and background effects. The message was deeper than I expected and makes you think. Enjoy those moments that we have with each other, they are more precious than you know.
Overall, the story and its kid-level hijinks may come across as weak or underwhelming, but "Alice Through the Looking Glass" offers a thoughtful message and colorful visuals to make up for its lost time (Heh…time puns.) It's a sequel that no one cares for, but for the most part, it's a nice trip back to Wonderland that should delight the young ones who are terrified of the Tim Burton version. If you're a fan of the first film, you may or may not like this latest sequel in terms of the story and lighter tone. Too bad it's not doing well at the box office as I was typing this review, but don't worry, I'm sure Disney will get back on its feet once Finding Dory hits theaters. In the meantime, let's spend every hour, minute, and second we have with this colorful sequel.