Francesca Rudkin is an entertainment reviewer for NZ Herald.

Movie review: Alice Through the Looking Glass

There were six years between the publication of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, so it's fitting there have been six years between filmmaker Tim Burton's lavish adaptation of Alice in Wonderland and this sequel.

Burton is just producing this time, with The Muppets' James Bobin directing, but Alice Through the Looking Glass still feels like a Burton film.

Like its predecessor, it's a visually stunning and imaginative film that wows with craftsmanship and technical prowess, but fails to woo emotionally.

Scene from Alice Through the Looking Glass.
Scene from Alice Through the Looking Glass.

The main cast has returned, with Mia Wasikowska noticeably stronger as the spirited Alice drawn back to Wonderland to save her dear friend the Mad Hatter (Depp).

The White Queen (Anne Hathaway), Tweedledee and Tweedledum (Matt Lucas), and an array of talking furry friends convince Alice the only way to help a depressed and dying Hatter is to time travel and learn what happened to the Hatter's deceased family.

To do this, Alice steals a time machine from Time himself, played by a delightful, German-accented Sacha Baron Cohen, and goes back to in time to find the Hightopp family.

Along the way we learn more about the Hatter's childhood and the tragic accident that turned the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) evil; but, really, we're just bouncing from one impeccably styled scene to another.

Helena Bonham Carter stars as the Red Queen.
Helena Bonham Carter stars as the Red Queen.

Alice Through the Looking Glass is one of those films that encourage everyone from makeup artists and costume designers to prop makers and visual effects experts to push the boundaries of their craft - albeit within Burton and Bobin's vision.

Alice's chinoiserie costume is so exquisite I found myself more transfixed by its colour and design than her gently rhyming words and where they were taking her.

The performances feel stronger, and there's an appreciably lighter tone this time around; but when you're more transfixed by a dress than moved by a character something is missing. In this case, it's a lack of depth beneath all the layers of visual magic.

Review: Alice Through the Looking Glass

Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp
Director: James Bobin
Running Time: 112 mins
Rating: PG (Some scenes may scare very young children)
Verdict: Story comes second to style.

- TimeOut

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