Friday, May 27, 2016

Alice Through the Looking Glass [2016]

MPAA (PG)  CNS/USCCB (A-II)  ChicagoTribune (1 1/2 Stars) (0 Stars)  AVClub (C+)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. McCarthy) review
ChicagoTribune (K. Walsh) review (M. Zoller-Seitz) review
AVClub (J. Hassenger) review  

I confess that in contrast to virtually every critic that I cite above, I LIKED Alice Through the Looking Glass [2016] (directed by James Bobin, screenplay by Linda Woolverton inspired by the book(s) [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] by Lewis Carroll [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb]).  I liked Tim Burton's (updated / reimagined) "original" Alice in Wonderland [2010] released in the months _just before_ I started my blog, and I LIKED THIS ONE, its sequel as well.  Why? ;-)

Well, first off, CATHOLIC PRIEST or not, I LIKE the "reimagined" Alice [wikip] [IMDb] (played by Mia Wasikowska).  I have _repeatedly_ recommended the original to family/friends and had made it a parish "teen group outing" after it had come out.  For here was a late teen / young adult Alice (rather than a 7 year old) who was a clear protagonist in her own story rather than one to whom (often bewildering) things happened to.  I can't imagine a parent _anywhere_ today who'd not want their daughters to grow-up to be _like_ "Wasikowska's Alice."

So I just LOVED the opening sequence of the current film which had Wasikowska's Alice AS THE YOUNG (maybe 20 y.o.) CAPTAIN OF HER FATHER'S OLD SHIP "The Wonder" outwitting a group of (Malay) pirate ships somewhere near China.  Yes, it was utterly anachronistic -- there'd be no way that a 20 year old, let alone a 20 year old young woman would be allowed to be / let alone BE RESPECTED) as a captain of a sailing ship in the late 1800s, no matter who was one's dad was ("it's just not done laddy / missy ...") -- but it was IN YOUR FACE COOL.   The gauntlet was dropped, the film's makers reminding EVERYBODY that the Alice of the first film was here to stay.  As a priest who I respected, indeed loved, early in my relationship with the Servites (my religious order) would say: "Good on you" ;-)

And it wasn't as if it was easy for Alice "to be free" / liberated in such a way.  A good part of the story that takes place "in the _real world_" was about an attempt by her family (her mother, played by Lindsay Duncan) and her father's old business associates including Alice's once "picked for her" fiance' (played by Leo Bull) to "put her back in her place" (in then Victorian society). 

So it's should not surprise anyone really at all, that faced with a truly _oppressive_ "reality" where she was (or at least would have been) allowed to do "next to nothing" (live as basically _as an adult version_ of the original 7 year old Alice of Carroll Lewis' books), she _preferred_ (to at least escape to) the "alternative world" available to her, this time, not through "a rabbit hole" but rather through "passing through a looking glass (mirror)" where she could be both valued and useful.

And so it was, faced with a "damned if you / damned if you don't" prospect of either losing her ship or being forced to watch her mother lose her home, led by "a butterfly" that she recognized (Absolem voiced by Alan Rickman), she jumps through said "magical mirror" back into "Wonderland" where she could catch-up / commune with and ultimately help resolve problems among her friends "on the other side."  Again, WHO WOULD BLAME HER?

Then I honestly thought the CGI (as well as set / wardrobe design) of "Wonderland" was (as in Tim Burton's "original") MAGNIFICENT.  Readers here will note that I don't necessarily give CGI a pass.  I _panned_ last year's Pan [2015] (as well as Mad Max: Fury Road [2015] and others).  On the other hand, I've whole heartedly defended / embraced CGI (even when it was _wild_...) when it served / improved upon the story (as in the CGI extravaganza that was the "updated" Three Musketeers [2011], as well as Suckerpunch [2011] and Thor [2011] to say nothing of the LOTR Hobbit [2012-14] movies).

Much of the current film deals with Alice, in Wonderland, having to sail "the seas of time" (in a steam-era mechanical orb-like contraption) in order to go _back in time_ to see what exactly had happened the Mad Hatter's [wikip] [IMDb] (played by Johnny Depp) family back on one fateful day an event which was causing the previously "mad" but otherwise _lively_ "hatter" to sink ever more deeply into depression. 

I found the CGI of the "Sea of Time" sequences (with seemingly every wave representing a day) to be simply Magnificent ("Thor [2011]"-worthy ;-).  I even found Alice's battles with personified Time (played IMHO quite excellently by Sasha Barron Cohen) to be LOL _fun_ as well: "Remember, I'm _inevitable_" he calls out to her as Alice tries to "out-run Time" ;-).  And there's a sequence centering around "Tea Time" that IMHO will be unforgettable to ANYONE with an 8-10 year old as the "Time puns" just fly for several minutes straight with Cheshire the Cat [wikip] [IMDb] (voiced by Stephen Fry) appearing (arriving) "ON Time," TIME _flying_ "when we're having fun", etc, etc.

Alice's passage "back into time" also helps Viewers appreciate better _why_ the "Red Queen" [wikip] [IMDb] (voiced by Helen Bonham Carter) had become so "evil" / problematic.  To be honest, I'm getting a little tired of that device, first popularly used to explain why "The Wicked Witch of the West" of the Wizard of Oz [1939] fame had become so "Wicked," but it does serve to remind us that "every person does have a story" and what _all of us_ do TO EACH OTHER _does have (long term) effects_.

So all in all folks, I LIKED THIS FILM (as I liked Tim Burton's "original") and would definitely recommend it to parents with teen and tween-age daughters.  It's a NICE and _empowering_ story of an "Alice" that all of us would want our kids to come to be.

Great job!

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