Alice Through the Looking Glass (Cinema Review)

PG – 113mins – 2016 – 3D


 

THE MATTER WITH THE HATTER

First announced four years ago, The Muppets resurrector James Bobin inherited the directorial top hat from Tim Burton (who stayed on in the capacity of producer) for this slow-tracked sequel to Disney’s 2010 live action Lewis Carroll remake.

“You’ve been gone too long, Alice.”

In the years following Alice’s (Crimson Peak’s Mia Wasikowska) slaying of the Jabberwocky and return to the sexist reality of 19th Century life, she has followed in her sea-fairing father’s footsteps as Captain of The Wonder. Upon debarking, Captain Kingsleigh is distraught to learn her father is dead and her spurned former fiancé, Hamish (Leo Bill), is now her boss, smarmily demanding she be demoted to clerk – no wonder our free-thinking heroine is desperate to escape once more to the dreamlike surrealism of Underland!

Stylistically in keeping with the colour-crowded, CG-heavy Alice in Wonderland, Looking Glass takes an “un-impossible” turn for the darker when the old gang of flamboyant friends tells Alice that the clown-faced Mad Hatter (Johnny Black Mass Depp) is dying of depression following the dim discovery that his estranged family of ginger hat-makers (headed by patriarch Rhys Ifans) have perished.

Desperate to put the colour back in his ghost-white cheeks, Alice tasks herself with entering the Grand Clock Tower and procuring the Chronosphere (think H.G. Well’s antique contraption mixed with General Grievous’ wheel bike) from Time (Grimsby’s Sacha Baron Cohen) himself, allowing her to journey back on the oceans of time to save the tragic Hightopp brood. But can you ever really change the past, or simply learn from it?

The grandiose time travel concept (Time is a he who has automaton Seconds for minions, who in times of need can club together into larger Minutes and giant Hours) is cleverly constructed, however no matter how poetic the plot or nifty the FX, I still don’t ever believe that the human actors are really anywhere but in front of a green screen – no matter how affected their accents or kooky their clothes.

Alice PosterDiverting from Carroll’s prose, Looking Glass successfully manages to pack more of an emotional wallop than its superficial predecessor thanks to an entangled backstory which reveals the reasons for the White (Anne Hathaway) and Red Queen’s (Helena Bonham Carter) sisterly squabbles – and the awkward medical justification for the latter’s inflated bonce. However, a lot of the surreal side characters feel like little more than frivolous window dressing in this “curiouser and curiouser” continuation which will put a Cheshire Cat-sized grin on the lips of those who loved Burton’s interpretation, but won’t convert any detractors.

CR@B Verdict: 3 stars

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Grimsby (Cinema Review)


15 – 83mins – 2016


JAMES POND-SCUM

While his earliest and most famous alter ego – privileged suburban “rude boy” Ali G – also satirised the less distinguished subsects of modern British culture, at least Sacha Baron Cohen’s voice of da yoof was a subversive stereotype, cleverly used to embarrass the disillusioned middle class fools he chose to interview, starting with The 11 O’Clock Show from 1998-2000.

Over a decade and a half – and four wildly diverse personas of varying success – later, and Baron Cohen has once again turned his focus to the council house-lined estates of Benefit Street Britain with lager loving football hooligan Norman “Nobby” Butcher in action-comedy Grimsby (which was granted the wittier and more inventive title The Brothers Grimsby Stateside).

Except… gone is the self-aware parody underlying Ali G’s brashness. Gone, too, is the cheeky naivety which forgave Borat his cultural faux pas, leaving Nobby as a disgusting, crass, thoughtless yob who embraces loutishness and is blind to the foulness of the pit in which he and his largely extended family dwell. Why? Just because.

I can’t even give Grimsby some slack for its humour, because it is completely devoid of that, instead choosing truly hideous bad taste yuks (Daniel Radcliffe could sue!) over any form of sensitivity as family-proud Nobby tracks down his long-lost brother (Mark Strong) and tags along on his globe trotting top secret MI6 mission which culminates in a horrendously contrived showdown at the 2016 World Cup Finals’ firework finale.

No subject is sacred as AIDS, celebrities, child abuse, elephant penises, gay sex, obesity and the residents of the eponymous Lincolnshire fishing town are mined for some horribly unsubtle and misplaced “jokes”. On more than one occasion I considered storming out in disgust, only placated by the thankfully brisk running time (and the fact I was biding time before The Forest began).

What makes all of this all the more painful and unacceptable is the talent both on and off the screen! Isla Fisher scrapes a pass for being married to the lead actor, while UK small screen stars Johnny Vegas and Ricky Tomlinson can be forgiven for taking a theatrical gig – but what is Penélope Cruz, Mark Strong, Ian McShane and Rebel Wilson’s excuse for signing on for this foul, base dreck?!!

Director Louis LeTerrier was behind the lens of the popular Transporter films (minus last year’s Refuelled) and the frankly fabulous Now You See Me, while one of Baron Cohen’s two co-writers, Peter Baynham, has collaborated on such point-perfect comedic highlights as Alan Partridge, The Day Today and Brass Eye how could so much talent combine to make this atrociously diabolical insult to the genre??!

CR@B Verdict: 1 star