THE directorial reins have been handed over but little else has changed in Disney’s live action Alice in Wonderland franchise.
James Bobin takes over from Tim Burton, but you would hardly have noticed, with the same focus on the visual aspect.
Despite all the CGI that money can buy, Bobin, who helped bring Muppets back to the big screen with the delightfully hip and fresh The Muppets (2011) fails to bring the same pizzazz.
After a fascinating and intriguing 20-odd minutes opening setting up adult Alice (Mia Wasikowska) in a male-driven world of sea exploration and business and her “anything is possible” beliefs challenged by her traditional mother, it quickly propels into a CGI spectacle in which the story instantly loses its dramatic edge.
Alice’s real-life plight is all but forgotten in lieu of her mission to help save her mate the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), suffering a depressive state over the death of his family years ago, and a slew of time puns and brain-twisting time-travel logic.
Ensuring a “get your money’s worth” running time of almost two hours, we are treated to additional back-story for sisters White Queen (Anne Hathaway) and Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) for dramatic weight.
The bright spark addition to the already abundant quirky and colourful characters is Sacha Baron Cohen as Time, who keeps time and guards the item that Alice needs to go back in time.
Plenty to look at (the designers have worked wonders), but little to engage with or grasp on to dramatically, Looking Glass is best described as an enjoyable time passer.
A side step back into the real world halfway through is so bafflingly brief and inconsequential, it is more likely something you would find as a special feature deleted scene on the DVD.
Disappointing, as the fantasy world offers little more than a visual treat.
The cast give it their best, and Wasikowska is always watchable, but the script lets her down as soon as she slips back into the fantasy land, with the majority of her dialogue merely reiterating plot points or verbalising what the CGI designers have concocted.
Alice Through the Looking Glass is, as was the first, a perfectly passable, though unremarkable or lasting piece of cinema confectionery, one that is enjoyable but quickly melts away.
Alice Through the Looking Glass (PG)
Directed by: James Bobin
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter
Review by: Julian Wright
In cinemas May 26