by Adam Riske
I’m very tired of positive and negative hyperbole. I’ve read a few other reviews of the new Alice Through the Looking Glass, and quite frankly I was almost embarrassed for some of those writers. I agree with them that this is a lousy movie, but they act like it personally offended them or that it’s this affront to civilization. These people need to lighten up. They are some of the same people who are saying “XYZ ruined my childhood,” which loosely translates to “I hate my adulthood. I’ve made all the wrong choices and I’m going to take it out on Ghostbusters or the Star Wars prequels.” The way I see it, Alice Through the Looking Glass falls under the same umbrella of shittiness that many sequels from the 2000s do, such as The Mummy Returns or Shrek 3 or Avengers: Age of Ultron. Do you even think about these movies anymore? No. You’ll be fine is what I’m saying.
But enough about watching the watchmen. Alice Through the Looking Glass is actually a slight improvement over 2010’s Alice in Wonderland. It’s a 1-1/2 star movie instead of a 1 star movie. As a Disney fan/semi-apologist, I sat in my seat during Alice 2 and really tried to give this movie the benefit of the doubt. I had low expectations for it sure but I was ready to have a good time. The director of the film is James Bobin, who directed the overrated The Muppets and the underrated Muppets Most Wanted and I was hoping he’d bring a similar playfulness and humor that he brought to the latter Muppets film to Alice Through the Looking Glass. However, he isn’t really given the opportunity. This is still a “visionary director Tim Burton" movie. I didn’t get the sense that this was Bobin at all. Burton served as producer on Alice 2 (not director), but this is a sequel to a movie so mind-bogglingly successful financially that there probably was a mandate by the producers and the studio to not change too much from what “worked” the first time around. So if you liked that shit, you’ll probably like this one too. I was bored for much of the time just like I was with the original in 2010, but it’s not like masturbating with a handful of sand like some others are saying.
Whenever I see a movie like Alice 2 that is so haphazard in its storytelling, I’m almost impressed in a gallows kind of way. You would think it’s easy in the script stage to write a movie where the current scene ties together and builds on the previous scene. I mean it would be easier to write a script that makes sense than one that does not, right? And yet, so many blockbusters (especially blockbuster sequels) lose audiences early because it’s just a mess of ideas with no clear through-line. Alice 2 is super guilty of this. It’s a movie where from scene to scene the actors’ motivations almost seem at odds with one another, like it’s a bad improv comedy show where everyone thinks they’re the diamond and everyone else is the setting. They seem so confused that I can understand why their performances are rendered one-note. This is also the type of movie where you zone out and then realize “wait, I’m watching a movie where Mia Wasikowska is running around on an oversize clock.” How do you even script or stage a sequence like that without having to take nap out of boredom by the time you’re done writing it?
The performances don’t help matters much. Mia Wasikowska looks adorable dressed as a sea captain in the film’s opening and closing sequences and I like that she’s plucky here but that’s it. She comes away the most unscathed; however, every time I see her on-screen it just reminds me that I’d rather be watching Mia: The Hot Sea Captain. Johnny Depp was hard to watch in this movie. I try to keep personal life shit aside, but I saw this the day he was accused of domestic violence so giving a fuck about the Mad Hatter was not in the cards this particular Friday night. I don’t know what the hell Anne Hathaway is doing in this movie. She’s playing to an audience of herself in these films. Helena Bonham Carter gives good shout and Sacha Baron Cohen is doing a Werner Herzog impression. P.S. Thanks everyone for making Sacha Baron Cohen a thing. He’s my cinematic nails on a chalkboard.
Note: When I saw this movie I sat in the front row of the stadium seating in my auditorium. At one point during the third act, I accidentally kicked off my flip flop and it fell just out of my reach. This incident provided more conflict and suspense than anything that was happening on-screen. If you’re bored watching this movie…maybe try that.