Director: James Bobin
Cast: Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter, Matt Lucas, Rhys Ifans, Sacha Baron Cohen, Alan Rickman, Stephen Fry, Michael Sheen, Timothy Spall, Matt Vogel, Barbara Windsor, Paul Whitehouse
Runtime: 1 hr 53 mins
Released By: The Walt Disney Company
Opening Day: 6 July 2016
Synopsis: In Disney’s “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” an all-new spectacular adventure featuring the unforgettable characters from Lewis Carroll’s beloved stories, Alice returns to the whimsical world of Underland to save her friend the Mad Hatter. Directed by James Bobin, who brings a unique vision to the spectacular world Tim Burton created on screen in “Alice in Wonderland,” the film is written by Linda Woolverton based on characters created by Lewis Carroll and produced by Joe Roth, Suzanne Todd and Jennifer Todd and Tim Burton with John G. Scotti serving as executive producer. “Alice Through the Looking Glass” reunites the all-star cast from the worldwide blockbuster phenomenon, including: Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Mia Wasikowska, Matt Lucas and Helena Bonham Carter along with the voices of Alan Rickman, Stephen Fry, Michael Sheen and Timothy Spall. We are also introduced to several new characters: Zanik Hightopp (Rhys Ifans), the Mad Hatter’s father and Time himself (Sacha Baron Cohen), a peculiar creature who is part human, part clock. Alice Kingsleigh (Wasikowska) has spent the past three years sailing the high seas. Upon her return to London, she comes across a magical looking glass and returns to the fantastical realm of Underland. Reuniting with her friends the White Rabbit, Absolem, the White Queen and the Cheshire Cat, Alice must save the Hatter and Underland itself, before time runs out.
When the 2010 movie Alicein Wonderland was released, it seemed like a great idea. Why didn’t anyone think of adapting Lewis Carroll’s creation into a live action adventure earlier? And why did it take so long for someone to come up with the bright idea of employing Tim Burton to direct the movie, with his muse Johnny Depp taking on the leading role of the Mad Hatter? The result was a trippy one, and while it received lukewarm responses from critics, we thought it was at least a refreshing take on the story.
Fast forward six years later, the businessmen at the studios thought it was a great idea to make a sequel. Burton, either busy with other projects or displeased with the so so reviews of the first movie, becomes the producer instead (that won’t stop the marketing folks from plastering his name on publicity materials though). James Bobin, who helmed the wonderful The Muppets (2011) and Muppets Most Wanted (2011), is the director.
Bobin has almost everything a director could ask for. Big names playing human characters (Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen, Rhys Ifans, Matt Lucas), more big names voicing animated characters (Alan Rickman, Stephen Fry, Michael Sheen, Timothy Spall), a kingdom of digital artists conjuring countless zany coloured scenes of Underland and most important of all, a hefty $170 million budget to work with.
So why did the 113 minute movie flop when it opened in the United Statesback in late May? Did the news of domestic abuse filed against Depp spoil things for the Walt Disney Pictures release? Were people finally tired of Depp’s tried and tested weirdo performances? Was this an unnecessary sequel out to make some quick bucks at the box office during the summer blockbuster season?
Well, let’s just say this isn’t a movie that you’d walk out of the theatres particularly impressed.
While we were enthralled by Pink’s brooding cover of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” when the trailer debuted, we knew something wasn’t right when footage focused on the computer generated effects instead of the potential zaniness the characters could bring along to the story.
Sure - the Mad Hatter (Depp) still has his disturbingly colourful hairdo, the Red Queen (Bonham Carter) still possesses her awkward big head, the White Queen (Hathaway) still moves around like she’s on drugs and Time (Baron Cohen), a new character who is a powerful godlike humanoid who rules over, well, time, is funny enough to hold a few laughs – but you get the sense that these are but superficial, empty coats of distractions to what a substantial story should bring for viewers.
You end up not caring about the story about how Alicesteps into a magical looking glass which brings her back to Underland. You are not too concerned why the Mad Hatter is acting madder than usual. You also aren’t too interested to discover the truth about his family’s fate. When Alicetravels through time and meets friends and foes at different points of their lives, you go along for the ride only to check out how impressive technology can be, without really wanting to be part of Alice’s adventures. Things could be worse, considering how you could have been left entirely bored and disinterested half an hour into the movie.
(Too much computer generated effects overwhelm this unnecessary sequel – but hey, at least you’ll be kept busy with the colourful digitally created sets, costumes and makeup)
Review by John Li