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ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS (USA 2016) **
Directed by James Bobin
Sarring: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Sacha Baron Cohen, Rhys Ifan
Review by Gilbert Seah
Based on Lewis Carroll’s ‘Through the Looking Glass”, the sequel to ALICE IN WONDERLAND entitled ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS is produced by Tim Burton but the director’s reins are now taken over by The Muppet’s James Bobbin. Burton’s dark first film is replaced by glowing dizziness, all shiny stuff and sparkles, delivering a louder and glitzier Alice. Which one is better? Critics have been divided roughly 50-50. But both films had the common trait that the plot’s logic is largely incomprehensible.
When ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS opens, the titles inform that the ship Alice Kinsleigh (Mia Wasikowska) is captain of, is sailing the Straits of Malacca in the year 1874. To those rusty with their geography or history, the straits is the narrow sea separating the west of West Malaysia (known at that time as Malaysia) and Sumatra, Indonesia. It is the time when trade was opening between Britain and the East Indies. Alice is supposed to be prospering in trade. But now, she is pursued by pirates. The pirates are inserted, perhaps to whet audience’s appetite for a new version of PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN from Disney. Alice’s ship escapes, thanks to the magic of CGI but she returns to more trouble in London, England.
The plot involves a few different stories. One is her losing her independence and her ship to a former suitor, Hamish (Leo Bill). But Alice escapes through a looking glass back into Wonderland where she meets her old friends Tweedledee/Tweedledum (Matt Lucas from LITTLE BRITAIN), the White Rabbit (Michael Sheen), the Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry) and the White Queen (Anne Hathaway). Everyone appears worried about the depressed Hatter (Johnny Depp), and the White Queen dispatches Alice to travel back into the past to save his family. So the second story involves Alice stealing time in the form of a gyroscope under pursuit by Time (Sacha baron Cohen) himself. The other less interesting one has the red queen (Helena Bonham Carter) dealing with her evil issues.
The humour is very, very mad and all over the place. Imagine sitting in a room having tea with a bunch of crazies or on an uncontrollable acid trip. Johnny Depp is in home territory here.
Sadly, the film’s most interesting segments are Alice’s problems back in reality dealing with her mother’s contract to Hamish and how she deals with them. It is when Alice goes to Wonderland, which is the majority of the picture, is when the film gets too crazy.
All the gaudy excesses cannot hide the fact that a film with a convoluted and confusing plot results in a less satisfying entertainment – whether a dark or glossy look is used to disguise it. Both ALICE fins fail to hit the mark. And the film contains too many puns on the word ‘time’.
The film is lovingly dedicated to Alan Rickman who voiced Absalom, the blue butterfly that leads Alice to the magical looking glass. It is funny that Rickman should be remembered by his last film a a blue butterfly than in his first film and best role in DEEPLY, MADLY, SWEETLY.
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