I doubt that even Jesus Christ himself knows how many film treatments there have been of s Alice sagas. Among the damned few that have been predominantly successful is the 1951 animated feature produced under the auspices of old man Walt himself. One would think the Disney folk would be happy with that, and leave well enough alone. Instead, they foisted ‘s 2010 version on us, which took a toilet plunger and sucked out virtually all of the novel’s inherent surrealism. It was a new nadir for both Burton and Disney. The Burton of Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985), Batman Returns (1992), and Ed Wood (1994) might have been an ideal match for the material. But, as a wise old owl once said, “the world may never know.” The Burton of 2010 was well past his tether and far from being the dark visionary of his past. Indeed, his Alice was a painfully sanitized caricature, and it seemed Burton could sink no lower (until Dark Shadows, that is).

Promo for Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016)The Tim Burton version of Alice in Wonderland was scripted by Disney writer Linda Woolverton, who is and always has been a hack. Her Beauty and the Beast  (1991) was a saccharine parody of ‘s staggeringly brilliant 1946 psychological fantasy. Astoundingly, Beast earned an Academy Award Best Picture nomination (one of the Academy’s most embarrassing moments, which is saying a lot). Even more cringe-inducing was her 1994 Lion King, with its maudlin “Circle of Life” song upchucked by Elton John (who seems hell bent on proving that Bernie Taupin deserves all the credit for their collaborations) and Tim Rice (who seems hell bent on proving that Howard Ashman deserves all the credit for their collaborations). Woolverton’s resume expanded with more Alka-Seltzer slugfests, such as Beauty and the Beast: Enchanted Christmas (1997), Belle’s Magical World (1998), Mulan (1998), Lion King 2 (1998) and Maleficent (2014).  Even in her most critically successful films (i.e Mulan) her writing never rises above formula, and what some feel might have worked in the projects she was attached to should be credited more to the animation and direction. Woolverton’s Alice made her direct-to-video, second-rate sequels look less embarrassing by comparison.

It hardly took a clairvoyant to see Alice Through the Looking Glass was a preordained disaster. A production team of hacks had plagued the previous production and, wisely, Burton opted out of returning as director. Gving Burton his due, he had to have known the Woolverton/Disney approach was ill-fitting for both Carroll and himself. It’s hard not to be optimistic about his upcoming trip, away from Disney, to Ransom Riggs’s home for peculiar children, which seems a better fit. Looking Glass is helmed instead by James Bobin, who gave us the abysmal Muppets Most Wanted (2014).

Burton is credited as producer, and the film has his usual yawn-inducing stable of actors who always manage to do better apart from him (and vice-versa). So soon after giving a critically acclaimed performance in Black Mass (2015), is disappointingly back in ham-fisted, weirdness-on-his-sleeve autopilot mode. equally disappoints, which is more surprising. Still, along with the late ((Alice Through The Looking Glass marks the seventh and final collaboration between Alan Rickman and Helena Bonham Carter.)) Alan Rickman (who voices Absolem with mellifluous wit and aplomb), Depp and Carter, while hardly doing their best work, stand out as genuine artists surrounded by clueless, apathetic lackeys in front of and behind the camera—including the return of as an even less appealing Alice than she was five years ago.

Bobin and Woolverton repeat the same astoundingly witless misstep she made in 2010: attempting to filter surreal nonsense through a logical, linear approach. I recall a 2010 forum on social media in which defenders of the original film humorously spin-doctored its glaring flaws by suggesting that Woolverton and Burton had, in fact, produced a film inherently “darker” than the original “children’s” novel. The argument was rendered idiotic when the proselytizers were exposed as never having actually read Carroll’s work.

Alice Through The Looking Glass abides on that level of stupidity. This is an imbecilic film that, miraculously, makes its predecessor look like an earnest effort.  Worse still, it’s a lethargic bore, which even the most disastrous cinematic adaptations of the material have been able to avoid. may now be able to lift his head, having passed the “worst film of the year” mantle onto Disney, Bobin, and Woolverton. In a rare showing of consensus, critics and audiences seem to be largely in agreement. With so much criticism being leveled at Looking Glass, it would be tempting to play the contrarian and try to find redemption in it. Nah, can’t do it. For once, the masses and critics are both right: the criticism is justified and well-earned. A scant few have praised the film’s look. Yes, it has eye-popping colors, but then so does a bag of skittles, which is much more fun to devour and far less expensive than this comatose 170 million dollar lump of CGI coal.

Turning over to my better half, who, deep in dissertation land, announced she was not going to waste a lot of time on something this awful. She was actually more surprised than I and, being that we’re in rare cinematic agreement here, I’ll stand by her brevity— since publicly arguing certainly is more entertaining than this epic bomb.

promo for Alice through the Looking Glass (2016)


Dear Alice Through the Looking Glass:

What happened here? Brilliant costumes, luscious visuals, seasoned actors, and a concept that still came across as a kindergarten version of Alice.

This review will simply ask, WHAT HAPPENED, HERE, PEOPLE?


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