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Running Time:
1 hr. 48 min.

Rating: PG Parental Guidance Suggested.

Rating Explanation:
for fantasy action/peril and some language

Jimmy's Buzz Guide Review:
With all the changes that they've made, this version of the classic story is only a pale reflection of Lewis Carroll’s imaginative masterpiece.

Additional Info:
Johnny Depp ... Mad Hatter Mia Wasikowska ... Alice Kingsleigh Anne Hathaway ... The White Queen Helena Bonham Carter ... The Red Queen Rhys Ifans ... Zanik Hightopp Matt Lucas ... Tweedeldee/Tweedledu... Ed Speleers ... James Harcourt Alan Rickman ... Blue Caterpillar Michael Sheen ... White Rabbit Sacha Baron Cohen ... Time

Alice Through the Looking Glass
Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is introduced as the intrepid captain of her late father’s ship The Wonder, using daring moves to escape pirates in dangerous seas. Returning to England, she’s distressed to discover that her mother has mortgaged their house to her boss, the sleazy Hamish (Leo Bill). Shortly the caterpillar-turned-butterfly Absolem (voiced by the late Alan Rickman) leads her through a mirror back to Underland, where a bevy of the characters she befriended in the last film inform her of the Mad Hatter’s dire despondency. They tell her that she alone can travel back through the years to save his family, but doing so will require purloining the device known as the Chronosphere from its master, Time (Sacha Baron Cohen), a mustachioed figure out of a Johann Strauss operetta who oversees all temporal events through clocks big and small, assisted in his work by a battery of clattery metal minions that can, when faced with an emergency, consolidate into one large robot.

Alice manages to zoom off into the past inside the stolen Chronosphere, with Time in hot pursuit. Passing through tunnels of watery ooze modeled after the big-wave ocean swells familiar from surfing movies, they travel back to significant days that reveal the disappointment the Hatter’s father, the elder Hightop (Rhys Ifans), felt in his son and the Hatter’s failure to save his family from the dragon-like Jabberwocky. The journey also discloses how the Red Queen became the virago she is and the role she played in the Hightop family’s tragedies. Rectifying one of those connected occurrences, it turns out, will change the other as well.

It’s ironic to find the film makers working so hard to make narrative sense out of all this, when Lewis Carroll’s point was to revel in the illogicality in the incidents he was fashioning. Director Linda Woolverton’s need to explain everything—the Hatter’s madness most notably—in the most mundane way is a major blunder that sets this Alice at a greater remove from its supposed source than all its pedestrian narrative inventions do. The film is a betrayal of Lewis Carroll in spirit as well as letter—certainly nothing could be further from his attitude than the misguided sequence showing Alice briefly committed to a lunatic asylum and threatened with a spectacularly large syringe.

Still, the audiences that flocked to the original Alice in Wonderland will probably find this garish travesty to their taste, too. Certainly the visuals are consistently eye-popping, especially in IMAX 3-D, and one has to give credit to the effects team and cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh for seeing to it that the live-action footage meshes so well with the special effects. Director James Bobin, who did the recent Muppets movies, keeps things moving with the help of fine editing, and Danny Elfman’s score works overtime to pump energy and whimsy into the mix, even if it’s not one of his more distinctive efforts.

As to the onscreen human contributions, Mia Wasikowska is again an agreeable presence, even if turning Alice into a feminist icon is yet another way in which the screenplay deviates radically from its roots. Johnny Depp does what has more and more become his default off-the-wall style, more clown than actor. Helena Bonham Carter repeats her screeching banshee from the last picture, which is becoming a bit tedious, but it’s Sacha Baron Cohen who’s the most prominent scenery-chewer this time around, though the lack of wit in his heavily-accented lines leaves him singularly unfunny, while the mugging of Rhys Ifans and Leo Bill as Father Hightop and Hamish is positively embarrassing. It makes the laid-back manner of El Speleers, as Hamish’s handsome aide, and Anne Hathaway’s blissfully vacant expression, particularly refreshing. The extraordinary array of voice talent that includes Stephen Fry (the Cheshire Cat), Michael Sheen (the White Rabbit) and Timothy Spall (as the drowsy bloodhound Bayard) is mostly heard in brief, unimpressive snippets, but it’s good to have Alan Rickman's mellow tones on film one more time.

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