Take away the stupidly expensive (and sometimes just stupid, or overdone, or overlong) visual effects, take away the sad necessity of hitching your story to a familiar wagon (oh, look, the first installment in this particular reboot of an established property made over a billion dollars!), take away the Disneyfied bloviation at the outset (“The only way to achieve the impossible is to believe that it is possible”), and you have a solid kids’ movie in the old style. One with something to say about something real — in this case, family and time— and a willingness to admit consequences, even as it serves up goofy humor, mild thrills, and slippy-slidey accents from slumming stars. (Sacha Baron Cohen might have made something great from his personification of Time, but it’s enough that the character at least inspires interest.) The story concerns a plucky girl who tries to set the present right by venturing into the past, with complicated results. The girl’s name is Alice, and the present problem has to do with her friend the Mad Hatter, but that’s almost incidental. (Admittedly, that incidental aspect will be more of a problem for some than others.) Directed in workmanlike, kid-friendly fashion by James Bobin. (2016) — Matthew Lickona
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