Looking glass has cracks

Alice Through The Looking Glass

What do you get when you combine a star-studded cast, $170 million and a script that could have been written by a bored, angsty teen? 113 minutes of “meh!”

This should have been a good movie and it could have been a good movie if (in the midst of all the hoopla over costumes, sets and effects) anyone had bothered to create a script that meant anything.

Rule 1 in good filmmaking is to create a plot where the stakes are high. This not only gives the actors something to sink their teeth into, but also makes the audience care about the outcome.

In Alice Through the Looking Glass, Alice (Mia Wasikowska), a successful sea captain in Victorian England, steps through the looking glass simply out of curiosity to escape a boring, high-society party. When she arrives in Wonderland, everyone is in a tizzy because The Hatter (Johnny Depp) is feeling blue, missing his family who were all killed years ago, but who he now believes are alive.

Her great quest, should she choose to accept it, is to steal the time-travel device from Time himself (Sacha Baron Cohen) and save The Hatter’s family so he can return to his old cheerful self and won’t be such a reclusive grump.

The sets are everything a brain on LSD and a crew of hundreds of special effects artists could conceive of. I enjoyed the colour, costumes and whimsy of Wonderland, the Steam Punkesque Time Castle and the stormy Sea of Time (you can already imagine the video game that is sure to be released in the next few months), but none of these visual extravaganzas are enough to save the film.

Wasikowska is passable as Alice, but really comes off as quite bland in a role that is an assertion of female equality in an age where it was unheard of. Alice really should have been much stronger and more interesting than this script allowed. Johnny Depp is always a treat to watch (his make-up is absolutely mesmerizing!)  and Helena Bonham Carter is delicious as the tightly wound Red Queen.

I enjoyed Sacha Baron Cohen’s initial impatient, no-nonsense, drill-sergeant character and was sad when he softened at the end of the film. There is a funny scene at the tea table with loads of puns about time that only works because he is so rigid. Anne Hathaway seemed to put in about as much effort as a studio obligation might have required of her and is entirely forgettable as the White Queen.

There are so many questionable plot turns in this movie, it’s hard to choose, but I’ll just highlight three:

  • 1) Through Alice’s time travel, we learn about the one terrible event that turned the Red Queen bad — she was wrongly blamed as a child for eating a tart when it had really been her sister, the White Queen. Fleeing her angry mother, she runs through the streets, falls and hits her head, which makes it swell to elephantine proportions and turns her into the cranky be-header she is today. Okaaayyyyy….   
  • 2) When Alice returns to the real world in an attempt to escape Time, she awakes to find herself strapped into a bed in an insane asylum with her mother by her side. Apparently, she has been there for days in a drugged stupour to cure her “hysteria.” She escapes, retrieves the lost time-travel device and goes back to Wonderland. This foray into the real world only serves to have us question whether Alice really is mad and is merely hallucinating the entire adventure.
  • 3) The Red Queen is Time’s girlfriend. What the what?
  • Save your time and money and give this one a pass unless you’re planning on passing something to smoke before watching it. Alice Through The Looking Glass is foggy at best.

I give this film 2 hearts.

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About the Author

Kim Foreman-Rhindress is a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City and London Western Conservatory of music for piano and voice. 

Kim has been performing in theatre and film for over 30 years in Canada, NYC, Palm Beach, Los Angeles, and the Netherlands. She has written several plays which have been produced in Canada and the U.S., and is the founder of Kelowna Voice Lab - helping people find their voice, be it singing or acting. 

A working musician, she performs regularly in Kelowna with her husband, Jim Rhindress, in an acoustic duo Smitten, and with her vintage trio Kitsch 'n Sync.  

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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