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A Less Hostile View of ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’

A Less Hostile View of ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’

Having just seen Disney’s Alice Through the Looking Glass on opening night, with a paying
audience at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood, I am late in filing my review.
I had a mixed reaction to the film, but I am somewhat surprised by the
hostility expressed by my fellow critics. I took it as a given that this sequel
to the 2010 Disney mega-hit would have little to do with Lewis Carroll. I also
knew that screenwriter Linda Woolverton would call on the same female-empowerment
theme that marked the previous Alice, directed
by Tim Burton. And I knew that this modern interpretation of Alice would be
perfectly personified by Mia Wasikowska, who seems incapable of striking a
false note on screen.

          There are
many pleasures to be had in this eye-filling extravaganza, from an opening
storm at sea (with Alice as the captain of a sailing ship) to the steampunk-like
world commanded by Time, played with comic relish by Sacha Baron Cohen.

          To my relief,
Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter is a mellower figure this time around; he is also
melancholy to the point of depression, which impels Alice to travel back in
time in order to save his now-departed family. (This involves the peril of
tinkering with events of the past, which as any Twilight Zone fan knows, is highly dangerous.) Even Helena Bonham
Carter, who was so furiously funny in the 2010 movie, doesn’t have to work as
hard to convey her outsized emotions here.

          These
performances compete with the beauty and extravagance of Dan Hennah’s production
design. Having worked on The Lord of the
Rings
trilogy and The Hobbit
movies, he is well versed in fantasy on a grand scale. So is director James
Bobin, having worked with Flight of the
Conchords
and having directed the two recent Muppet movies.

          But, I will admit,
I grew tired at a certain point. Like many of these elaborate “tentpole”
blockbusters, Alice can be
exhausting. I didn’t mind the fact that so many characters’ backstories are
spelled out in literal fashion, but having accepted and even embraced the time-travel
premise, I was ready for the filmmakers to wrap things up long before they did.

          Having heard
dreadful things about the movie going in, I was pleasantly surprised that I
liked it as much as I did. And I remain a card-carrying member of Mia Wasikowska’s
fan club. Lewis Carroll purists should stay away, but judging by last night’s
Disney-centric audience, I think moviegoers will find much to enjoy.

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