D: James Bobin. DP: Stuart Dryburgh. W: Linda Woolverton. Starring: Johnny Depp/Mia Wasikowska/Helena Bonham Carter/Anne Hathaway/Sacha Baron Cohen/Rhys Ifans/Matt Lucas/Andrew Scott. Voice talents of: Alan Rickman/Martin Sheen/Stephen Fry/Toby Jones. (Based on characters created by Lewis Carroll)
Here lies the long to come forward sequel to Tim Burton’s 2010 live action version of Alice in Wonderland. With Burton passing the directorial mantel to Muppets helmer James Bobin, the special effects heavy film appears nearly six years after the first. Unfortunately, this film is more visual tricks than story and once again underwhelms in Underland.
Screenwriter Linda Woolverton again works her Disney resume onto this script. However, where I thought Maleficent was fresh, this script lacks anything really new to say about this world. The film is primarily focused on the Hatter’s (Johnny Depp) past and rescuing his family. Alice (Mia Wasikowska) arrives again in her imagination to insert herself into the action, or lack of, in Wonderland. Alice takes on the Hatter’s mission guided by the Hatters friends. She tricks Time, here literally personified by Sacha Baron Cohen, and steals the cronosphere which allows her to travel back in time. Yet, annoyingly, Alice simply says not once, but twice what the plot-line/action of the film will be. Despite its younger audience this is just lazy writing.
Most if not all the humor lies in the character of Time portrayed by Cohen. He brings his signature deadpan and wit to a film that feels mostly decorative. Colleen Atwood again designs an intricate piece of costuming for the film. Half of Cohen’s head seems to be made of gears and other watch parts and his over accentuated Soviet looking armor makes Cohen even taller than he is. Wasikowska’s older adult Alice is no match for him and she seems to blend into the scenery no matter what Atwood dresses her in. Anne Hathaway returns with her poor British accent as the White Queen whose airiness seems sillier here. Of course, in Wonderland there is nothing wrong with silly, but there is just not enough story to back up these performances.
Of course Depp returns as the Hatter, but he is sick for most of the film and seen in the past. Depp has revved him up since Alice in Wonderland and he is more cartoonish than weird. Maybe without Burton he is left to his own devices and that might not be a good thing. Same with Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen. It is difficult to care about characters who create the same conflicts across films. Rhys Ifans does a nice turn as the Hatter’s father and it is heartwarming to hear dear departed Alan Rickman’s voice again as the blue caterpillar. Ultimately, Alice Through the Looking Glass tries to age Alice up and create a space that Carroll’s second book did not. I applaud the effort, but special effects cannot be everything. You must have a heart.