Published May 27, 2016It's too bad Tim Burton didn't stick around to direct the sequel to 2010's Alice in Wonderland, because Alice Through the Looking Glass seems like the perfect fit for him. It's a children's fairy tale brought to life with an overwhelmingly dark message about the certainty of death, the permanence of the past, the futility of trying to control the future and the lack of respect young women get in a patriarchal society.
If you're a fan of Lewis Carroll's original head-trip, don't get too excited, though: This isn't the Through the Looking Glass you remember reading as a youth.
After travelling the high seas in search of adventure on her late father's ship, Alice returns to England to find her family's finances in disarray, and is forced to realize that she may have to sell her vessel and work a normal job in order to keep them afloat. That's when she decides to escape through the looking glass and return to Wonderland, but even there, things aren't in order.
The Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) has fallen gravely ill after discovering a fragment from his past in a field, suggesting that his long-lost family is still alive. Somehow, Alice's disbelief makes him grow sicker. The solution is to go meet Time himself (Sacha Baron Cohen, but sadly at his most humdrum here) and trick him into sending her back in time to confirm the Mad Hatter's story and save his family.
Veteran Disney writer Linda Woolverton has delivered a strong (if sometimes convoluted) story with a lot of subtext, and Flight of the Conchords writer/Muppets director James Bobin is able to milk some fairly funny scenes from his actors, but there's something about Alice Through the Looking Glass that just doesn't pop the same way its predecessor did. Part of the has to do with the colour palette, which emphasizes blue and black hues in its more sombre scenes, making the whole film feel a little subdued.
This visit to Wonderland is a worthy trip, even if it's not as vivid as it could be.