Alice Through the Looking Glass review: Where’s Johnny Depp’s muchness?

  • Rohan Naahar, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: May 27, 2016 19:18 IST
Alice returns to the whimsical world of Underland to help the Hatter in Disney's Alice Through the Looking Glass.

Alice Through the Looking Glass
Director - James Bobin
Cast - Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen
Rating - 2.5/5

It doesn’t take too long to understand the kind of film Alice Through the Looking Glass is, or at least, the kind of film it’s trying to be. It’s not an adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s second Alice novel. It has no social commentary on its mind. It’s barely even a sequel to Tim Burton’s original 2010 film. But here’s the catch: It isn’t trying to be any of those movies. The film is simply a lavish, effects-laden fantasy adventure that happens to be populated with familiar faces. It just… is. So isn’t that how it should be treated?

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As far as unnecessary sequels go, this isn’t as hair-tearingly terrible as the recent Huntsman: Winter’s War. For one, it’s brighter, surprisingly consistent and somewhat focused as far as plot goes.

But of all the similarities Alice could have shared with that film, it chose the worst one. Remember how despite being promised an evil Charlize Theron all you got was a mildly annoyed Charlize Theron cameo? Well, there’s no softening this blow so I’m just going to say it: Johnny Depp’s barely in this movie. It doesn’t matter that they’ve found clever ways of working around whatever misgivings Depp was having about returning, they have to be called out for this move.

Because most of the big name cast has been reduced to glorified cameos, Mia Wasikowska has been promoted.

The plot, like I said, isn’t a complete mess. Despite juggling numerous characters, location-hopping at breakneck speed, balancing subplots and working in that most confounding of movie plot elements – time travel – it’s always easy to follow.

The film rides on Mia Wasikowska’s shoulders for large chunks, and in a way, it’s better that there’s no bright orange Johnny Depp stealing her spotlight. But I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Sacha Baron Cohen’s performance as Time. He has a tendency to overstay his welcome at – ahem – times, but here he makes the inspired choice to steal Werner Herzog’s voice and his performance elevates the movie considerably.

Time, Sacha Baron Cohen’s character is sort of an amalgamation of his classics. There’s Ali G, Borat, Bruno and even a little bit of Alauddin - at least when he’s addressing his minions.

But what this movie lacks is an original voice. Director James Bobin’s work here is akin to a Renaissance art forger being forced to replicate not the Mona Lisa, but a doodle Da Vinci made on the toilet - because like that hasty doodle, the original Alice wasn’t Tim Burton’s finest hour.

Before wrapping up, it should be made clear that this is, after all, a kid’s movie and not one for desensitised minds. Everything is spelled out, foreshadowed, spoon fed. Numerous times. But then, panning it would be cruel because it isn’t as cynical as it could have been.

We were always more forgiving as children. For years, I liked Batman & Robin. And kids are the luckiest moviegoers of them all. They get to enjoy more movies. It might be damning with faint praise but Alice Through the Looking Glass works better than the original. And if I were a kid, that would be enough.

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The author tweets @NaaharRohan

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