Alice Through the Looking Glass (PG)
Running time 1hr 53mins
IT’S fitting that Alice Through the Looking Glass should start with trouble at sea, just as its predecessor’s director, Tim Burton, jumps ship. Passing the tiller to British helmer James Bobin, the film opens with Alice (Mia Wasikowska) back in the real world, all grown-up and captain of a ship.
“You know how I feel about that word,” she hisses when a crew member informs her that what she’s asked them to do is “impossible” – and so sets the theme for the movie. We are asked to suspend our disbelief as Alice embarks on a convoluted journey to reunite the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) – who appears to be dying of a deep malaise – with his long-departed family, thought dead.
Alice has found herself back in Wonderland – brought back to the fantasy world by butterfly pal Absolem (voiced by Alan Rickman,
in one of his final roles) through a mirror portal. He’s come to get her as the only person thought able to save the Hatter. Out of a sense of loyalty and friendship – and, let’s not forget, a desire to escape the harsh realities and extreme misogyny of the real world – she agrees to do what she
So begins an adventure that leads Alice to Time himself (Sacha Baron Cohen) and brings her face-to-face with old adversary the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), as she skips around in time to find the Hatter’s family and save her friend.
Bearing little resemblance to Lewis Carroll’s original follow-up to his classic children’s novel Alice in Wonderland, there are token nods to the story. The chess set that features at the start and also the Jabberwocky are the most notable.
More of this sequel is miss rather than hit, and it would feel like an endurance if it wasn’t for Depp, Baron Cohen and Bonham Carter, who each bring humour and idiosyncracy to their characters. Whenever these three are on screen, the whole atmosphere lifts.
Alice as a character, meanwhile, is humourless with an oddly intense, difficult-to-comprehend affection for the Hatter, which makes her hard to identify with, despite her tenacity and strength.
An adaptation, albeit loose, of a novel by one of our most celebrated children’s authors, there is nevertheless a welcome smattering of wisdom imparted in the dialogue, woven in amid the craziness; some of which is a cut above the standard children’s teachings.
Animation, though, is all over the place. While Bonham Carter and Depp are impressively animated, other parts, like Alice’s journey through time, might be colourful but they feel lazily realised.
Having stepped a long way from the source material, there’s plenty of scope here for another sequel – and if that happens, let’s pray that Johnny Depp, Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter return, or Disney will have a real dud on their hands.