Often I am asked what the hardest part of reviewing film might be? The answer is complicated but begins with the wasting of my time, as it is time I will never get back. No one sets out to make a bad film, just as no artist sets out to give a bad performance, but it happens. What angers and disgusts me about this mess of a film is that it was entirely unnecessary and seems to have been made for no other reason than to make money, big fat gobs of money. You see the first film made in excess of six hundred million dollars, won two Academy Awards and was well liked….sort of. So if the sequel makes half of that, everyone at Disney, where the dollar is God, is happy.
Poor old Walt make be doing loop de loops in his grave knowing this sort of movie is being made with the Disney banner. Though they can make wonderful films, The Jungle Book (2016) being absolute proof of that, a lovely movie, they are also responsible for crap like this. And believe me when I say crap, I am being gentle, even kind…more than kind.
How can so many fine actors not see the script has nothing to say? Johnny Depp is back as the Mad Hatter, Helena Bonham Carter is again the Red Queen, apparently channelling Al Pacino and shouting her way through her performance, Anne Hathaway is the White Queen, looking stoned, and Mia Wasikowska, a very fine actress (see her performance in Tracks) again is Alice. Voice work comes from the late Alan Rickman, who all but steals the movie with his deep velvety voice.
Where to start with a nightmare like this?
Time (Sasha Baron Cohen) is up to no good, going backwards to roast the parents of the Mad Hatter and therefore impacting the future. Alice, now the Captain of a ship, doing very well in the business world, is summoned back to down the rabbit hole (via the looking glass) to deal with Time and what he is up too. LIke the first film she will go to war against the same foes, and will be aided by her many friends.
To comment on the performances is a waste of time, but as a reviewer that is my job. Wasikowska again plays Alice like a latter day Joan of Arc, a warrior woman seeking to break free of the conventions and repression draped over women at this time. She is such a fine actress, having proven herself in The Kids Are Alright (2010), the vastly under appreciated Jane Eyre (2012), and the under seen Tracks (2014), and looks to be a major actress on the rise. Why oh why would she sign on for a piece of garbage like this?
Depp, a brilliant actor, looks lost in the film, and after his career best work in Black Mass (2015) last year that is a sad state for him. If this is the sort of thing he is being offered, he would do well to get another agent, one that will get him good scripts like, oh, say Black Mass (2015)? Carter, in that ridiculous bobble head look does little else but scream her lines at the top of her voice, open her eyes as wide as they will go and passes that off as acting, while Hathaway floats around like she has smoked the very best pot offered in this strange world. I find Carter runs hot and cold, when she is good as she has been in A Room with a View (1986),The King’s Speech (2010) or Fight Club (1999) she is sensational but when bad as she was in Hamlet (1990), and this, you might wonder how she ever became a major actress. And Hathaway, still basking in the glow of her Oscar winning performance in Les Miserables (2012) had better realize you are only as good as your last film, and this is terrible, a horror show, the sort of film that ruins careers.
Sasha Baron Cohen this time seems to be imitating another villain, Christoph Waltz’ Nazi in Tarantino’s Inglorious Bastards, and he is a good enough actor to make it work and the screenplay undoes him. I don’t know, I know I tired of him very quickly, and grew irritated with each new scene he had.
Tim Burton, who directed the first film wisely chose NOT to direct this one, perhaps after reading the script and realizing it was about nothing and had even less to offer. James Bobin, who brought a sweet magic to The Muppets (2013) reboot brings nothing to this.
I left the screening angry and cheated of the two hours I had put in.