Runtime: 113 Minutes
Main Cast: Johnny Depp
Helena Bonham Carter
Sacha Baron Cohen
Main Production Company: Walt Disney Pictures
Written by: Linda Woolverton
Directed by: James Bobin
Written by Nelson Cumming
Alice Through the Looking-Glass is the sequel to Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland although this time Burton decided not to return to the director’s chair (although he did help produce it). This time, it is James Bobin, director of The Muppets in 2011. I can say that he has not topped The Muppets, but he has not made something that is as terrible as other movie critics would like me to believe. The thing that was utterly perplexing about Alice Through the Looking Glass was that it defied expectation in a very weird way. The things I thought would work in the movie didn’t work. At the same time, the things I thought would be terrible worked.
The actual premise of the movie was unconvincing at best. Here it is: Alice (Mia Wasikowska) returns to Wonderland and reunites with her friends (The White Queen, Twiddledee, Twiddledum and others). They say the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) was sad because he believes his family is still alive and no-one believes him. Alice finds the Chronosphere, which she steals from Time (Sasha Baron Cohen) to distort the space-time continuum and threaten the existence of Wonderland, herself and her friends in the process.
Alice does all of this just to keep the Mad Hatter happy. Not to save the world, not to discover herself, not to save the ones she loves and not to even stop evil. Just to stop someone from being sad. Can a movie be any more low stakes than that? Oh wait, it can! The story explains why the relationship between the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) and the White Queen (Anne Hathway) are fractured. It is one of the stupidest reasons I have ever heard, worse than the plot. Even worse, this movie lost the plot! For not having a convincing storyline, I couldn’t engage in the poignancy. I expected the movie to have a better story than that.
Now to the things I did not expect to be great but were. The first was the animation. I thought that the animation was colorful and beautiful enough to the engage me throughout the movie. I disagree with most movie critics who believed it was boring. I like Underland, the residence of Time himself, and I liked the chase sequences where Alice moves to and from time. That was one element that surprised me because I thought would be boring (like critics did). On a side note, from many reviews, I hear it is better to watch the movie in 2-D like I did. I heard from critics that it was painful to watch in 3-D.
The other thing that surprised me was the performance of Sasha Baron Cohen. Yes, you heard me, Baron Cohen. I saw his name on the movie poster my initial thoughts were that the casting of that role was hopelessly misguided. I like Baron Cohen, but after being the king of raunch comedy and shoving the envelope for a decade, I thought this was a bad move. I was wrong. He was entertaining and engaging as Time and made him a believable albeit flawed character. Baron Cohen knew his role and did not try to hog the spotlight as I feared he would do. This time, he was the butt of the bad pun jokes about time itself instead of telling the joke. I am pleasantly surprised that Baron Cohen was engaging in a sincere way and kept it clean for a kids movie. He is showing signs of versatility. His acting was not the level of Colin Firth, Tom Hanks, and Daniel Day-Lewis but he exceeded my expectations.
So in summation, Alice Through the Looking Glass is a movie with an unconvincing story saved by the animation, acting from SOME of the actors (some I found annoying or distracting) and my willingness to suspend my disbelief. If you want a story with substance, you can take a star off my rating. The good parts of the movie were just enough for me to outweigh the bad parts. **1/2