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Film review: Alice Through the Looking Glass – misguided story changes make for a boring sequel

Second-rate adaptation takes all the fun out of Lewis Carroll’s classic and falls way short of Burton’s first Alice film

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 June, 2016, 1:01pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 June, 2016, 1:01pm

2/5 stars

This sequel squanders the dark psychedelic capital of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, and also insults the intelligence of its source, Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass. How a director could turn one of literature’s most imaginative works into such a humdrum affair is a mystery, but that’s just what James Bobin has managed to do. Everything about this film is decidedly second-rate; amazingly, it even gets boring.

Amid the mass of undisciplined special effects in search of a story, Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is brought back to Underland (that’s Wonderland, for those who haven’t seen the first film) to save her friend the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) from manic depression. To do this, Alice must steal a time machine from Time (Sacha Baron Cohen) and travel back into the past to save the Hatter’s family from disaster. The time-travel plot is as hackneyed as it sounds, and the effects, while massive, are nothing new.

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Lewis Carroll’s classic book has been an inspiration to writers for almost 150 years, so the filmmakers’ decision to ignore the storyline and replace it with a subpar update is just plain odd. Carroll’s book has Alice making her way across a giant chessboard while dealing with existential musings about the nature of reality. But Bobin’s film has her whizzing through space and time like an ill-thought-out sci-fi heroine trying to save the world.

The delicious Gothic flourishes which made Burton’s Alice so watchable are nowhere to be seen, and that’s a surprise, as he is credited as a producer. At least a hammy performance by Baron Cohen as Time, seemingly modelled on a Greek Orthodox priest, brightens things up a bit. Depp, though, is a big disappointment, as his fey Hatter irritates more than entertains.

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It’s a shame that Burton himself didn’t sign on to direct the sequel – the result would doubtless have been much more entertaining.

Alice Through the Looking Glass opens on June 16

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