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Alice Through the Looking Glass (3D)


Stars: Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Mia Wasikowska, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter, Rhys Ifans, Matt Lucas, Lindsay Duncan, Ed Speleers, Hattie Morahan. Voices: Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Barbara Windsor, Matt Vogel, Michael Sheen, Stephen Fry

Director: James Bobin

We should tell purists right from the start that this is not Through the Looking Glass as Lewis Carroll wrote it, nor anything like, but rather a darkish fantasy by Linda Woolverton using some of Carroll's characters (and a few new ones).

The resulting film is much too long and tiresome too often, but mightily impressive to look at: the huge budget certainly shows on screen.

Things get off to an unlikely, if well-mounted start, with Alice (a third-billed Wasikowska) as a sea captain returning from a three-year round-the-world voyage in 1874, to find her mother (Duncan) in dire financial straits and under the heel of Alice's smarmy rejected suitor Hamish (still Leo Bill), now Lord Ascot: looks like it's the house or Alice's ship.

Yes, there's a mirror and Alice does go through it, but there any connection with Carroll's book ends. Alice finds her friend The Hatter (Depp) in mourning for his dead family. Alice can only save them by travelling back through time and preventing their fate.

To do this, she must lay her hands on the chronosphere, held by Time himself (Baron Cohen, doing his familiar schtick). Also after the sphere is the Red Queen (Bonham Carter).

Time's vast headquarters is a masterpiece of production design, as his army of little mechanical men, headed by Wilkins the butler (Vogel) help to keep things ticking (sorry) over. Seizing the magic sphere, Alice hurtles off through time and a series of rather enervating adventures, one of which reveals how the Red Queen got her huge head, thanks to a lie told by her sister the White Queen (a breathy Hathaway).

It all climaxes in Time's rapidly rusting-up fortress. 'Only by putting back the chronosphere,' gasps Wilkins, 'can Alice save us now,' in case we haven't been following the plot.

A lisping Depp is even more annoying than in the first film, but the White Rabbit (Sheen) and the Cheshire Cat (Fry) are still fun, with the latter poaching the best line. 'You're late,' accuses the rabbit. 'No,' purrs the cat, appearing on Baron Cohen's shoulder. 'I'm right on Time.'

David Quinlan

UK/USA 2016. UK Distributor: Walt Disney. Technicolor.
112 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 25 May 2016