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Watch This Review

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Movie Review

It may be a typical London day in the tip-your-hat-and-curtsy year of 1875, but Alice Kingsleigh is not your typical 19th-century young woman. She'd far rather be captaining her father's cargo ship than attending fancy balls. She'd rather face the near-impossible—navigating treacherous reefs and out-maneuvering marauding pirates—than trying to catch a wealthy suitor's eye.

And typical society frowns on that kind of contrariwise attitude.

Perhaps that's why Alice's former fiancé, the stiff and starchy Hamish, has worked so hard to drive her widowed mother into debt while Alice was at sea this past year. Perhaps he feels that if he can steal away all they have, he can punish the independent woman who once jilted his affected affections.

However, while trying to sort out that trouble, Alice finds herself almost accidentally slipping through a mirror and heading back to the magical realm of Underland, that alternate-reality world of magic and mayhem that she's visited several times before.

There she finds yet another quandary that requires the help of a brave, very untypical young woman such as herself. Her friends the White Queen and the Mad Hatter are in dire need. In fact, the Hatter is on the very verge of death.

It seems he believes that his family—who everyone knows succumbed to the Jabberwocky's fiery fury years ago—may still be alive. But no one believes him. And that disbelief has driven the mad man … mad.

The White Queen suggests that the only way to save the Hatter is to steal the time-traveling chronosphere from Time himself. Only then can the Hatter family mystery of years gone by be solved. That job, however, must be accomplished by someone from outside Underland. For if someone from the wonderful realm itself ever met himself in the past, it would break existence itself.

Oh dear. The Grand Clock is ticking. And things on both sides of the looking glass appear to be nearly impossible to work out. But "impossible" is only un-possible if someone typically believes it to be so. And Alice Kingsleigh is not your typical sort.

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Positive Elements

Though no young girl, as she is in the Lewis Carroll books, this twentysomething Alice is still an inspiration for young girls (and boys). She rails against archaic limitations placed on women. And she stands up bravely for friends and family while being willing to give up the things she values most, in exchange for assuring the long-term happiness of those she loves.

And though she makes an enemy of Time, and he struggles against her, even his actions are an equally upright effort. He wisely tells Alice, "Young lady, you cannot change the past. But I daresay, you might learn from it." Time also repeatedly expresses his desire that people see their finite time alive as something precious. Alice eventually learns that lesson and admits to Time, "I see now that you give before you take. And every day is a gift, every hour, every minute."

In that same vein, the various human and animal friends in Underland rally together in a time of crisis, fighting for one another. And when it seems that all is lost, one of their number cries out, "I have cherished every moment with all of you!"

It's revealed that the Hatter had a contentious relationship with his father as a young man. But also that the two eventually overcome their differences, expressing their love and appreciation for each other. The Hatter then states, "Very important thing, a family. You need one."

We see the Red Queen, once known as Iracebeth, and the White Queen, Miranda, as girls and find out why Iracebeth grew into the raging off-with-their-heads tyrant that she did. Ultimately, an apology and a dash of sisterly love and forgiveness changes things profoundly. A youthful lie is properly shown to have a lifelong negative impact.

Spiritual Content

In Plugged In's review of Alice in Wonderland, this film's direct predecessor, Paul Asay described a featured magical brew thusly: "This might indeed be a magical concoction—which would make the White Queen into some sort of witch. Or it might be, simply, how they cook in Underland." And, indeed, while there are no potential witch's brews here, Underland remains an admittedly odd amalgam of "imaginative nonsense," "naturalistic wonder" and old-school Disney "magic." Of specific note this time around, if you'll pardon the pun, is the fact that people's lives are connected to small pocket watches that Time cares for. When your watch stops running, you perish.

Sexual Content

None.

Violent Content

A dragon-like Jabberwocky roars and breathes fire, setting a town ablaze. (And we believe that attack causes the death of an entire family.) Pirate ships blast away with cannons, trying to sink a ship. Ships wreck on a craggy reef.

Alice falls from a great height and dangles from perilous precipices. She thumps to the ground while riding in a time machine. And she runs from the gnashing jaws of robotic foes.

The raging Red Queen calls for people heads to be lopped off and their lips sewn shut; Time gives her a little music box that features a tiny mechanical man having his head chopped off. We see an irritated Iracebeth trip and thump her noggin on a statue's stone base. Of course Humpty Dumpty takes a great shell-cracking fall.

Someone's poor choice causes buildings and people to be immersed in a corroding corruption that steals away life. We see a man slump face first into a bowl of soup when his time runs out.

Crude or Profane Language

Two exclamations of "bloody."

Drug and Alcohol Content

Alice injects a doctor in the backside with his own hypodermic needle, knocking him unconscious.

Other Negative Elements

Alice steals the chronosphere.

Conclusion

Let's face reality: It's no easy thing to re-create Lewis Carroll's whimsical, whumsical, completely topsy-turvical tale of unreality. Alice's Underland Wonderland, found in the depths of a rabbit hole and on the other side of a looking glass, is a place that gyres and gimbles far too crazily with poetic, inside-out illogic and riddle-filled madness to ever be truly pinned to the modern sterility of script and digital film.

If that's the sort of magic trick you're looking for, well, you'll find that Alice Through the Looking Glass doesn't fully satisfy. It has scant relation to Carroll's curiouser and curiouser novels. And all of Disney's well-appointed men and women, along with all of its CGI horses, can't outshine what a well-spun page and a child's imagination can so quickly accomplish.

That said, there is merit to be found here. This yesterday-and-tomorrow-but-never-today amusement feels less dark and dangerous than the Alice in Wonderland original from a few years back, first of all. And that's even with the continued Jabberwocky fire-fright and lose-your-footing peril.

After all the scurrying, scampering and time traversing, the Mad Hatter and his solicitous crew of saviors let us know that a family is something to treasure, that every day should be a valued gift of seconds, minutes and hours. Even the stomp-her-feet-and-rant Red Queen makes clear that family "forgivenesses" and "I'm sorrys" are far finer fare than fibs.

It's hard to get too contrariwise about that.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults

Credits

Rating

PG

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Mia Wasikowska as Alice Kingsleigh; Johnny Depp as Hatter Tarrant Hightopp; Helena Bonham Carter as Iracebeth (Red Queen); Anne Hathaway as Mirana (White Queen); Sacha Baron Cohen as Time; Rhys Ifans as Zanik Hightopp

Director

James Bobin ( Muppets Most WantedThe Muppets)

Distributor

Walt Disney

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

May 27, 2016

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Bob Hoose

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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