Kernel Rating (out of 5):
MPAA Rating: PG Length: 112 minutes
Age Appropriate For: 10+. This extremely loose adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s ‘Through the Looking Glass’ has Alice traveling through time. Family members are either dead or assumed to be killed; a young girl suffers a head injury that changes her personality; a character ends up in a sanitarium and is threatened with sedation; some characters are sick or harmed to the brink of death, another dies, shown falling into a bowl of soup, and we see the implied corpse of another character; some romantic tension, involving a jilted lover trying to exact revenge on the woman who rejected him; some sibling rivalry, including one child blaming another for something and lying about it; an unsupportive father figure; and some hurtful insults from children to their parents.
A movie could not have less to do with its source material than ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass.’ This thoroughly listless sequel to the surprise Disney live-action hit is a dizzying array of mediocrity.
By Roxana Hadadi
Five years ago, Disney’s reboot of “Alice in Wonderland” kicked off the company’s live-action trend in the worst way possible. The movie was a sickening mix of updates to the 1951 animated film and Lewis Caroll’s 1865 novel: The Mad Hatter breakdanced. The Red Queen despised Alice because of romantic competition. And there was enough CGI to give anyone a headache. Now, five years later, “Alice Through the Looking Glass” suffers from the exact same problems—it’s a tedious example of too much much-ness.
It’s important to state, from the beginning, that “Through the Looking Glass” has almost nothing to do with Carroll’s 1871 novel that continued Alice’s adventures in Wonderland. That book had a mirror, this movie has a mirror, and that is literally where the similarities end. That is it!
Instead, “Through the Looking Glass” builds upon all of the mistakes of its predecessor: needless action sequences, terrible dialogue, poorly developed characters. These movies are fanatical about jamming in everything you recognize about the Alice in Wonderland stories—the Cheshire Cat, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, Humpty Dumpty—but they then do absolutely nothing with those elements except rearrange them every so often. Everything in “Through the Looking Glass” is a façade, and everything is forgettable.
“Through the Looking Glass” picks up three years after “Alice in Wonderland” ended. Alice Kingsleigh (Mia Wasikowska, of “Tracks”), after turning down a marriage proposal from the wealthy and idiotic Hamish (Leo Bill, of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”), is now the captain of her father’s ship, the Wonder, after his death. But when she returns to London, she learns that her mother has leveraged her house against the ship, meaning that Hamish gets either one or the other. Either Alice and her mother will be out on the streets or they’ll lose the Wonder, their father’s most prized possession.
“That is a child’s dream,” Alice’s mother says of her desire to do impossible things. “The last thing I want is to end up like you,” is Alice’s retort, and when Alice is led back to Wonderland through a mirror in Hamish’s father’s study, she seizes the opportunity.
When Alice arrives there, she learns that the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp, of “Into the Woods”) is sick, convinced that his family—who died years before at the hands of the Jabberwocky, the Red Queen’s (Helena Bonham Carter, of “Suffragette”) monster—is actually alive. Alice refuses to believe that, but she does decide to travel back in time to change history so that his family doesn’t die, and so the Mad Hatter can have the relationship with his family that she doesn’t have with hers.
To do this, Alice needs a special device that she steals from Time (Sacha Baron Cohen, of “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues”), who is in love with the Red Queen. And so her action sparks off an escalating series of dangerous events: Alice is messing with timelines that affect the past, the present, and the future; she is directly threatening Time’s life, since his existence is tied up with the device; and she’s putting everyone in Wonderland in danger, because if time stops, then everyone will die. “Everyone parts with everything eventually, my dear,” Time warns her, but Alice won’t listen.
What’s most frustrating about “Through the Looking Glass” is, in fact, that Alice won’t listen. This film makes her reckless, foolhardy actions supposedly noble: that she puts everyone else at risk because the Mad Hatter doesn’t seem to be in his right mind; that she ignores the rules of space and time to get her way; that she focuses purely on her own self-interest. A major point of the film is how the Red Queen became evil, and the film fingers Alice for this, but also lets her entirely off the hook. You won’t sympathize with anything Alice does, and the film’s clichéd messages about appreciating family and seizing every moment is undermined by how foolish Alice’s behavior is.
Add to all that the overly busy CGI work, which creates a Wonderland in which everything is garish, bright, and unnecessary; the terribleness of Depp’s foppish, silly treatment of the Mad Hatter; and a script that has characters narrate everything that is happening as it is going on in front of them, and “Alice Through the Looking Glass” becomes a miserable slog. Its predecessor, somehow, made $1 billion internationally. We’re living in an insane world if “Through the Looking Glass” mimics that distinction.
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