Review: Alice Through the Looking Glass

– Cecily Knobler, Live from Hollywood –

Directed by James Bobin

Starring Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen, Anne Hathaway


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How does one grade an acid trip? I’m gonna try. Actually, it’s unkind to LSD to compare the mind-altering effects of a synthetic drug to that of nonstop CGI and Johnny Depp’s mugging. But let’s give it a shot.

First, it’s important to recognize the brilliance of Lewis Carroll (real name Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) who, along with having an impressive resume, penned the Alice books on which these movies are based. Well, KIND OF based. In the 2010 Tim Burton-directed Alice in Wonderland he modernized Alice a bit, creating a feminist warrior storyline that may or may not have been intended by Carroll. But since the whole point of Carroll’s books were to create beautiful wordplay and metaphors out of nonsense, it’s tough to make a two-hour plot-driven movie out of it.

In the current Alice Through the Looking Glass, director James Bobin steers even further from the source material. Yes Alice, questioning her sanity and identity, walks through the looking glass only to learn that life is but a chess game and in order to thrive (as the Queen or otherwise,) she must figure out all of its puzzles. But what’s NOT in the book and is now added into the film is a subplot about how the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) is “sad” and how Alice has to go talk to “Time” (Sacha Baron Cohen) in order to help him. (Honestly, it would be like re-tooling Charlotte’s Web so that Wilbur the pig now suffers from bipolar disorder and only Charlotte the spider can save him with the lithium she spins in her silky web. Note: Tim Burton, if you’re reading this, do NOT steal that idea!)

Although Mia Wasikowska is likable, Depp, who once again looks like “comedian” Carrot Top (POST plastic surgery), and especially Helena Bonham Carter (reprising her role as the Red Queen in the most frightening of ways) both take their characters to such quirky heights, it kind of cancels out the point. It’s like that hipster friend we all have who wears wool hats shaped like panda bears and talks about Bitcoins all day. You MOSTLY agree with him, but he’s such a stereotype that you’re embarrassed to introduce him at a party.

Sadly, the CGI and the constant barrage of cacophonous noise makes it tough to drift off to that wonderland in search of meaning. And before I end this, a few things about Lewis Carroll. Some theorize that many of the characters in his books and poems were based on real people. He was also said to have been quite religious, elitist and politically conservative. Some claim he never even took any drugs! Personally, I’ve read the books and I’m going to stand by my belief that, to the contrary, he took ALL of the drugs. If his ghost could talk, I think he’d tell Bobin, Depp, Carter and Burton (since he did produce this) “I once took so much opium, I thought my hand was a purple kitty-cat. And even ‘I’ thinks this film is too much!”

Love the books; love the metaphors. Wanted to love the film, but just didn’t.


Cecily Knobler is a writer, stand-up comedian and film reviewer for over 15 FM radio markets in the U.S. and Canada. Her new book Five Thousand Three Hundred Miles is available now on Amazon.

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Follow Cecily Knobler on Twitter @Cecilysaysstuff and Q-Avenue @QuincyAvenue

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