Film Review – Alice Through The Looking Glass (2016)

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On her return to Wonderland, Alice says “Curiouser and curiouser” easily sums up own thoughts on the big screen return to Lewis Carroll‘s fantasy world. Alice Through The Looking Glass we find ourselves 6 years after Alice In Wonderland, a film that divided fans, critics whilst delivering over $1 billion at the box office worldwide. Money talks and if you do the talking at the box office, you want a follow up the film you’ll get despite the critical panning.

Tim Burton has now stepped back to producer with former Muppets/Flight of The Conchords director James Bobbin stepping in to direct, but does he deliver? A little. Alice Through The Looking Glass bears very little resemblance to the Lewis Carroll novel if anything, it only shares the same name.

So what’s Alice Through The Looking Glass all about? We find ourselves 1 year on from the previous adventure. Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is onboard her father’s ship ‘The Wonder’ (the ship Alice was in at the end of the last film), in rough seas been pursued by pirated in rough stormy seas. She eventually outwits the pirates and the ship gets back to London in one piece but things have changed.

Her dull Mummy’s boy suitor Hamish (Leo Bill) whom Alice rejected a proposal of marriage has moved on, found a wife got a child too. He summons Alice to his home to report on her journey for Alice to find out he has threatened her mother (Lindsay Duncan) with eviction. However, if Alice gives up her father’s ship take up as well as becomes a clerk she can keep the home.

Now in limbo in what to do, should she give up her independence or be her ‘father’s daughter’ and go against the grain? When she fights her thoughts a familiar sight catches her eye when her friend capitellar now butterfly Absolem (Voiced by the late Alan Rickman) guides her to a room to where the ‘Looking Glass'(magic mirror) which transport her back to Underland. Here she learns her old friend The Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) has sunk into a ‘terminal depression’ because of unresolved issues with his deceased father. To save her friend Alice must face time himself but will she and will time be on our side?

From the young girl who fell down the rabbit hole to the free spirited independent young woman in Victorian Britain  Alice is well ahead of her time in the era she lives in. Sexism was rife and been a captain of a ship many men believed it was no place for a lady. If any young ladies had too ‘muchness’ they would be regarded as suffering from symptoms of madness and hysteria. Alice did landing her in a mental asylum, though in the context of the film it gave it no substance or was she suffering from the after-effects of Absolem pipe?

Alice In Wonderland felt flat on its face despite having a war chest (many directors would die for) to deliver the intended outcome, a jumbled mess. Alice Through The Looking Glass maybe a vast improvement on the original film but it doesn’t escape some of the pitfalls that plagued the first film. Many of the original cast have returned they seem to come across more like detached objects only there to give the film Wonderland authenticity. Mia Wasikowska delivers a solid honest performance, so does Helena Bonham Carter, it’s one of the new cast that steals the show, Sacha Baron Cohen.

Playing the embodiment of time, Since Borat the British actor strongest performances seem to be with him in more supporting roles. You could argue his comedic style helps him here, possibly helping him get his best performance to date. He’s a slightly narcissistic, silly, kind, cruel but time is no friend but he’s no enemy either. Baron Cohen comes across sounding like British  Jean Dame officer Crabtree (Arthur Bostrom) of ‘Allo ‘Allo fame.

James Bobin may not deliver the same level of quirkiness as Burton but what he does do is deliver enough surreal moments help this film work as a stand-alone. Don’t expect friends reunited with Alice and Underland residents, what is the real winner here is the film’s central plot based around time travelling exploits of Alice in the Chromosphere (looks like something straight out of HG Wells novel) to save her friend. There is a curious sub-plot of how Queen of Hearts gets her big head. Johnny Depp looks extremely more terrifying as the Mad Hatter. But one thing we can be thankful this time he spares us of another cringe-worthy Mad Hatter Breakdance!


Fantasy, Adventure, Family | USA, 2016 | 12A | Disney Pictures | 27th May 2016 (UK) | Dir.James Bobin | Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helen Boham Carter, Alan Rickman,