Review – We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Hat (“Alice Through The Looking Glass”)

If you’ve ever read Lewis Carroll’s book, Through the Looking Glass–and What Alice Found There, then be prepared to be disappointed. All the characters from that book were already seen in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland movie in 2010. But what’s a sequel without all NEW characters, right?

It’s been three years since Alice Kingsleigh (Mia Wasikowska) has visited Underland (uh…  Wonderland). Remember that? She freed the people there from the tyrannical Red Queen’s rule (a bulbous headed Helena Bonham Carter), restored power to the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), and made the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) SO happy, he danced the Futterwacken! Now Alice is captain of the Wonder, her late fathers ship sailing back from China. But there’s trouble once she’s home in London by way of her ex-fiance, rat-faced Hamish (Leo Bill), who wants her to sell out and be his clerk. But that will have to wait as word comes from Underland: the Hatter is sick! Using a large mirror for transport, she pops into Underland and greets her old friends from the first movie.

Johnny Depp returns as Terrant Hightopp/The Mad Hatter, who’s slowly dying after finding out that his family might be alive after many decades. Alice takes up the cause to find them and, with the White Queen/Mirana of Marmorea’s help, Alice goes to the dangerously secretive castle of half-man/half-machine, Time (Sacha Baron Cohen), to ask for help. The only way to find out about the Hatter’s family is to steal the Chronosphere device and travel back in time, which she does with Time’s warning about messing around with time.

Alice, flying through the seas of time (literally) and being chased by Time, gets to interact and see the backstories of both the Hatter and the two Queens and how their lives played out, but she interferes with one trying to help and makes things worse. Can you say “the Butterfly Effect?” She even pops back briefly into her own world, only to thought a wacko and sent to an asylum for treatment. But she pops back again to Underland and resumes her time travel quest, only to find out that the Red Queen/Iracebeth had the Hatter’s family locked away!

Armed with this new info, the whole Underland gang (including a rejuvenated Hatter) set out to the Red Queens desert vegetable fortress to rescue them, but things go very wrong and Iracebeth gets a hold of the Chronosphere and plans to alter her own history. But Time warns of a disastrous time paradox effect if she does and. . .well, what can I say, the big-headed Queen does exactly that.

Sequels are always a tricky thing, especially when dealing with Lewis Carroll’s immortal novel. Even though there is only about 2 minutes worth of Carroll’s second book in the movie, screenwriter Linda Woolverton (Malificent, Beauty and the Beast) has a winner here. Instead of her fantastically weird compilation of bizarre creatures and stories, as in her first 2010 Alice in Wonderland movie, her solid storyline here has more heart, gravitas, and pathos. And for all you girls out there, it’s overwhelmingly women-empowered as well.

Directed by James Bobin, best known for his The Muppets and Muppets Most Wanted films, he has fun with this sequel, making Alice more of an Indiana Jane with her wild adventurous spirit and “never say impossible” battle cry. Wasikowska is wonderful and more relaxed than in first film, carrying the movie with ease alongside Depp, who plays the Hatter effortlessly and with great fun. Then, of course, you have the eye-popping SPFX background and set design that are just marvelous, not to mention Time’s goofy clock-work minions.

Note: You have to sit through a terrible music video of Pink’s new song before the movie, so beware..

Return to OZ (1985)

In a frighteningly bizarre departure from the House of Mouse, Disney took a left turn into the Twilight Zone (and really wished they hadn’t) with this nightmarish and apocalyptic look at OZ has young Dorothy Gale getting shock treatments and witches with spare heads screaming in glass cabinets. If this didn’t scare you as a kid, nuthin’ did!
Both visually stunning and graphically chilling, this outlandish sequel to L. Frank Baum’s beloved Wizard of OZ story goes south immediately, as little Dorothy Gale (Fairuza Balk–her first screen role) receives word that her friends back in OZ are in trouble, six months after her first trip there. But her aunt and uncle are convinced the child is mad as a Hatter and decide to place her in an institution to receive shock therapy. Nice going, relatives!
Anyway, just as she’s about to get zapped, she escapes (thanks to an electrical storm) and BOOM! She’s whisked back to OZ with her pet talking chicken, Bullima. But OZ isn’t the same anymore. No carefree Munchkins, no happy Glinda, no dancin’ Scarecrow, and the yellow brick road has been smashed. Why? Mombi! Yes, that dastardly wicked witch Mombi (Jean Marsh) has turned OZ, the Emerald City, and all of Dorothy’s friends into stone! Trying to get more info, Dorothy meets Tik-Tok (Sean Barrett), a short mechanical wind-up man, but they’re captured and imprisoned by Mombi. Check out Mombi’s henchmen: the Wheelies! Dorothy also sees Mombi’s room of extra heads she keeps for special occasions!
But never fear! Dorothy uses the ‘powder of life’ to re-animate a couch with wings and a moose head (yeah, it sounds as weird it looks) called a Gump (Lyle Conway) and a pumpkin man-thing. . . (think of Jack Skellington with sticks instead of bones) called Jack Pumpkinhead (Brian Henson). They make their escape to see the Nome King (a giant claymation Nicole Williamson who slowly becomes human sized) because he has the Scarecrow captured and the magical ruby slippers. The Nome King makes them play a sinister game to see who’ll survive, but it’s his morbid fear of chicken eggs that is his untimely undoing, thanks to Bullima.
Dorothy saves the day again, restores the long-lost Princess Ozma (Emma Ridley) to her rightful place, and all is well again in OZ. Dorothy is snapped back to Kansas, the institution has burned to the ground, and Dorothy is told by Ozma (in a mirror reflection) to shut the hell up about her trips to OZ from now on. Good advice there, Princess!
Written by Gil Dennis and Walter Murch, whose idea of a screenplay was to give kids nightmares for decades. . .and they succeeded! Although culled from L. Frank Baum’s books, this dark and disturbing film does have some of the best SPFX’s ever put to film. Bullima, Jack Pumpkinhead, Tik-Tok, Gump, the Wheelies; all fantastic practical effects that look awesome. And Will Vinton’s Nome King stop-motion claymation? Incredible! Sure, it’ll scar the little ones into their late twenties, but hey! It’s Disney, right?
And then you have 10-year-old Fairuza Balk as Dorothy. Wow. This kid with her big, beautiful, expressive Persian eyes, nailed her first big screen role without going into Disney “cutsie” land like so many before and after her. She was grounded, played it real, and even sounded a little like Judy Garland with her breathless voice. Jean Marsh went full tilt bat-spit crazy as Mombi, especially with the multi-heads room, a scene NO child will ever forget! This movie, as shocking as it was, has become a cult classic now, even though Disney has resigned itself to not talk about it much, like their Song of the South musical slavery movie.   

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