Following on from the fantastical 2010 Alice in Wonderland, Alice (Mia Wasikowska) returns to Underland for her lesser-known sequel, Alice Through the Looking Glass. Based on the book by the same name from Lewis Carol, the title is the only similar identifier between the film and its literary counterpart. Where, in the book, a young Alice is drawn back to Underland while playing with a kitten, the film presents a very different Alice. Now grown, Alice Kingsleigh is the captain of her father’s ship, The Wonder, and has returned to 1874 London from China, only to her discover her ex-fiance, Hamish Ascot (Leo Bill) has taken control of her father’s company. Her days going against social norm are over, it seems.
Set three years after the events of Alice in Wonderland, Alice is soon called back to Underland where she learns that the Mad Hatter, whose real name is Tarrant Hightopp (Johnny Depp), is deathly ill. Convinced his family, who were killed by the Jabberwocky years ago, are alive, he begs Alice to find them. The White Queen (Anne Hathaway) suggests that she visit Time (Sacha Baron Cohen) and request to borrow the chromosphere – a device that controls time, and to go back in time and save Hatter’s family from the jabberwocky and her sister The Queen of Hearts’ (Helena Bonham Carter) wrath.
What ensures is a fantastically crazy adventure through both time and the world of Underland. The new director, James Bobin (The Muppets, Flight of the Conchords) has lost none of the Tim Burton-esque aesthetics from the previous movie, fans can be assured Underland is just as vibrant as wacky as ever before. Large accolades must go to the costuming and makeup department – from the Hatter’s various hats and makeup to Alice’s numerous gowns, it makes for an impressive show.
Sacha Baron Cohen shines in his debut to the Alice in Wonderland series as Time, a humanoid product of the Great Clock of time. He methodically goes about his day, processing those Underlandians who have ‘ticked their last tock’, but is however, not without his own charms. With a peculiar French accent, Baron Cohen channels more King Julien from the Madagascar series than any of his more notorious characters, so parents with young children can breathe easy.
The story is a lot tamer than the previous incarnation, and would be suitable for children from eight years onwards. The humour is predominately tongue-in-cheek and screwball, with puns galore. There are fuzzy-animal sidekicks galore and numerous seconds, which are like Times’ equivalent to minions, and don’t worry, they’re just as annoying.
The Jabberwocky has already been slain, and so there’s little bloodshed or fighting. Alice, headstrong and defiant, struggles to make sense of both her world and Underland, as well as the past and the present. This however, at times, falls into the cliché and audiences well-versed in film will be able to pick out the classic time-travel tropes, though at times they are presented with humour.
Overall, Alice Through the Looking Glass will delight and humour fans of the series and young families alike – though just don’t expect it to venture anywhere near the original book.