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Refuge Reviews-Alice Through the Looking Glass

Alice Through the Looking Glass is a messy film that has more spectacle then it is predecessor, 2010's Alice in Wonderland, but is also less coherent.

This sequel comes a whopping 6 years after the first and I have to wonder (pun intended) just who this film was made for. Most people I have talked to didn't particularly love the original, which struck it rich by being the first film to open after Avatar that featured 3-D. Fortunately rather then hire Tim Burton to again helm the sequel, Disney hired James Bobin of the The Muppets. Bobin certainly brings a sense of levity and spectacle to the film, but its also incoherent in the early going and doesn't stand out in a memorable way. The story this time around has Alice returning from a stint as a sea captain only to be swept back into Underland (yes, they don't call it Wonderland for some reason). There she discovers that the Mad Hatter (again played by Johnny Depp) isn't doing well because his family is missing and its affecting him for...some...reason... The film never successfully explains why and its around this time that even someone like me couldn't quite follow what was going on, as the various colorful characters that populate Underland all speak in a mixture of gibberish words like Jabberwocky and flim-flam.

Fortunately once  Alice heads to the realm of Time to find a way to save the Hatter, the film hits its stride. Time in this film is not just a thing but a him and he is played magnificently by Sacha Baron Cohen, who makes this a memorable and likable character. In fact even though the advertisements make him look like the villain, he really isn't and therein lies a problem. Alice is the real antagonist in her own movie as she disrupts the Great Clock for her own desires and causes Time it(him)-self to chase after her through time. Sound a little confusing? That's because it is and the story only gets more complicated as The Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) returns and is the real villain of the piece. She wants to control time and we get some background on her relationship with her sister the White Queen (Anne Hathaway). The story itself luckily comes to a solid conclusion despite the myriad of plots with a exciting finale that wraps things up well.

While the story may not be the best, the visuals are breathtaking at points and really make this a film to see on the big screen. The handful of action scenes particularly those on the River of Time and within the Great Clock itself are breathtaking with crashing waves of memories and imposing steampunk-esque machinery, respectively. Time's henchman are also standouts though we get very little of the adorable mechanized critters and that's a shame. Also having little to do are the other CGI creatures like the White Rabbit and Cheshire Cat who basically clump together and spout off exposition for the duration of the film. They are all voiced ably though by an eclectic cast of actors. In fact the entire cast does well, even Johnny Depp (though his Mad Hatter still looks like a creepy clown), though Mia Wasikowska's Alice takes a backseat in her own film.

Consensus:

Alice Through the Looking Glass is a competent film that surprisingly gets better as it goes on which is uncommon in the movie world, as most fail to stick the landing. Memorable characters all jostle for attention but the one definite standout is Time himself who steals every scene he is in. The visuals are unsurprisingly gorgeous but the confusing plot and lackluster real-world storyline do them no favors. If you loved the first one, then you will probably like this sequel but for everyone else just wait and rent it from Redbox in a couple months.

Family-Friendliness:

Rated PG for fantasy action/peril and some language. Alice Through the Looking Glass has very little inappropriate in it and even though the rating says it has language, I don't remember any since all the characters seem to speak entirely in gobbledygook or ye olde english. There are some darker scenes that might distress younger viewers involving a child getting hurt and a dragon attack. No one actually dies in this film (on-screen) though so parents won't have to worry about that at least. I would say that kids 6+ will be fine for this latest Disney live-action adventure.

Rating: 2.5/5