Alice Through the Looking Glass (4 stars)

Alice Through the Looking Glass

James Bobin takes the helm of a superior sequel, with Sacha Baron Cohen stealing the show

Here’s a rarity: a summer sequel that’s far better than its predecessor. Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland was an indulgent mess, leaning heavily on 3D hallucinogenics. But, with Burton stepping aside, new director James Bobin arrives with a hatful of pleasing ideas. Bobin, who went from helming Da Ali G Show and Flight of the Conchords to directing the two recent Muppet movies, brings all his comic skills to the table.

Chiefly, his big coup is bringing his erstwhile Ali G collaborator Sacha Baron Cohen into the fold. He plays the figure of Time, who becomes embroiled with Alice (Mia Wasikowska) when she returns to Wonderland to discover her old friend the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) has fallen into a funk regarding his seemingly deceased family. The only way Alice can save him is to travel back and change the past – which rather annoys the officious Time.

Along the way, Alice meets plenty of old friends: Matt Lucas is back as Tweedledum and Tweedledee; Stephen Fry, once again, voices the Cheshire Cat; and, poignantly, the late Alan Rickman has gone from caterpillar to butterfly. Anne Hathaway and Helena Bonham Carter as the sibling queens also return, with childhood issues of their own to resolve. It all adds up to a rather nimble blockbuster – one that mixes melancholy and mirth in equal measure.

While Depp keeps the more outlandish elements of the Mad Hatter in check this time, Wasikowska has grown in stature as Alice, playing her as feisty and formidable. But, in truth, it’s Baron Cohen that makes the film. With a Germanic accent (reputedly inspired by Werner Herzog) and a dictionary of arcane phrases (‘dunderheads’ is a particular pleasure), Time is a brilliant creation. Credit to Bobin too for keeping everything in the air, and never letting CGI swamp the movie in the way Burton did. A real treat.

General release from Fri 27 May.

Alice Through the Looking Glass

  • 4 stars
  • 2016
  • US
  • 1h 53min
  • PG
  • Directed by: James Bobin
  • Cast: Mia Wasikowsksa, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen
  • UK release: 27 May 2016

Alice (Wasikowska) has to travel back in time to help the Mad Hatter (Depp), to the annoyance of Time (Baron Cohen). Nimble blockbuster with a good blend of mirth and melancholy, and director Bobin never lets the CGI swamp the story in the way Burton did in the first film.