Despite what seemed to be a marriage made in kooky heaven, Tim Burton’s 2010 reimagining of Lewis Carroll’s iconic ‘Alice in Wonderland’ neither enchanted nor fully committed to the source material’s surrealist “muchness”. But what do critics know? Alice In Wonderland unexpectedly took the box office by storm, grossing over $1bn. Now comes the not-so-long awaited sequel that sees Tim Burton jumping ship and James Bobin (The Muppets) taking the directorial reins.
The painfully contrived plot follows Alice as she returns to Underland. There, she finds Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter in a sedated existential funk. The only way to make him stop acting like he’s in the follow-up to his Australian apology video is to steal a time-travelling device called the Chronosphere from Time himself (Sacha Baron Cohen) and time-hop, à la Back To The Future II, towards some unresolved family issues.
Everything you didn’t miss from the first instalment is back: Depp’s gormless lisp, Anne Hathaway’s flailing hand gestures, some clunky feminist sentiments and utterly superfluous 3D. Oh, and if you thought that the first chapter was a CGI overload, brace yourselves. There is never any reason to doubt that this flimsy screenplay from Linda Woolverton exists for the sole purpose of getting these actors to share the screen once more, as opposed to actually constructing a semi-thrilling new adventure. The film’s main issue is that its creators have banked on the blind hope that audiences were gagging to know the Hatter’s backstory and that fans were frustrated by the fact no explanation was given for the Queen of Hearts’ enormous head the first time around.
Mia Wasikowska and Helena Bonham Carter do their best and Colleen Atwood’s extravagant costume designs are a joy, but nothing saves Alice Through The Looking Glass from being utterly uninspired. Unlike this year’s Zootopia, it unambitiously settles for targeting the younglings without sparing a solitary thought for older viewers: those hoping for universality will feel short-changed.
In a moment of enlightenment, Alice states that “Every day is a gift: every hour, every second”. Words to live by. Don’t waste any of your precious seconds on this convoluted, studio-mandated guff that does that most dangerous of things: it ironically makes you want to go back in time to reassess Burton’s previous pastiche more leniently. And that truly would be madness.
Alice Through the Looking Glass | Directed by James Bobin (USA, 2016) with Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Sacha Baron Cohen. Starts May 26