Disney, with their children classics, usually hit all the right notes both with their signature style and substance. But they got the aforementioned substance majorly wrong in “Alice Through The Looking Glass. ” It’s been six years since Tim Burton’s quirky, fun and clever “Alice in Wonderland.” Alas, time hasn’t been kind to this sequel, which opens this Friday. Directed surprisingly haphazardly by “Muppets” director James Bobin, and written equally so by Linda Wolverton, the film is unfortunately devoid of charm and whimsy and never seems to quite come together.
The actors are certainly game, returning veterans include Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen, Mia Wasikowska as Alice, Sacha Baron Cohen as the Chronosphere from Time and Anne Hathaway as the White Queen. It was also lovely to hear the late Alan Rickman as the voice of the butterfly Abolsem as well as Stephen Fry as the Cheshire cat and Michael Sheen as the White Rabbit.
But even with all that uber talent, the film bottom line doesn’t work on many levels. The plot is basically this: Alice, years after her Wonderland adventure, is now a liberated, saucy sea captain who has traveled worldwide, comes home and faces the danger of losing her beloved home and ship. The film then majorly stumbles, as she transports through the Looking Glass to figure out a way to fix her problems and herself. She winds up back in time to an ethereal, magical world filled with colors and magic. But other than the superbly engaging visuals, the boring and most times incoherent plot, not to mention truly scary at times with it’s zombie and death scenes for the young ones, well the film simply never clicks.
The actors all seem to be in their own movies. To be fair, Bonham Carter does stand out with her over the top relish and Depp does hit some poignant moments in the last part of the film. Sacha Baron Cohen is committed, but unfortunately his accent, as well as some of the other actors’ thick caricature like accents, make them hard to understand. Lewis Carroll would not be pleased at with his beloved stories being squandered like this. Maybe best if our beloved Alice should go on a way long break.
PS “Alice” has a 30 on Rotten Tomatoes, which doesn’t bode well. Expect a big Saturday afternoon but a lukewarm weekend at the box office.