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SYNOPSIS: When Alice (Mia Wasikowska) wakes up in Wonderland she must travel through a mysterious new world to retrieve a magical scepter that can stop the evil Lord of Time (Sacha Baron Cohen) before he turns forward the clock and turns Wonderland into a barren, lifeless old world. With the help of some new friends, Alice must also uncover an evil plot to put the Queen of Hearts (Helena Bonham Carter) back on the throne.

Review by Louise Keller:
The screen explodes with vibrant colours, textures, sounds and the immortal characters of Lewis Carroll in this mad-as-a-hatter sequel to Tim Burton's 2010 Alice in Wonderland. It feels as though screenwriter Linda Woolverton has thrown all the ingredients into a giant teapot and shaken them rather too wildly, although the film looks wonderful with its imaginative ideas and extraordinary visual effects. The commodity of time is at the heart of the plot and as Alice steps through the gilt mirror into Wonderland, she discovers that while you cannot change the past, you can learn from it.

With Johnny Depp again enjoying top billing as the wild, red-haired Mad Hatter, it is not surprising that his colourful character plays a central role and whom Alice aspires to save by stealing a time-travel chronosphere. The idea of Alice spinning out of control in the metallic circular construction through the waves of the oceans of time like a surfing pipeline is spectacular. Sacha Baron Cohen plays Time, an austere control-freak figure (not sure about the East European accent), who does not welcome Alice into his intricate tick-tock domain. The production design is exquisite.

As Alice, Mia Wasikowska shines brightly, encapsulating all the qualities of the adventurous, bright, vital, caring young woman who stands up for herself and her friends but always retains a lovely innocence. All the familiar characters are there: The Cheshire Cat, Tweedle Dum & Tweedle Dee, the White Rabbit, Humpty Dumpty, the White Queen and the Red Queen. The latter (Helena Bonham Carter in devastating form), complete with bulbous head and a mass of heart-shaped red curls is the baddie of the piece, complete with cupid-bow lips and hysterical manner. She is bewitching. Anne Hathaway as the White Queen is a contrast in serenity. The voice casting is perfect with Stephen Fry as the Cheshire Cat and Alan Rickman (to whom to film is dedicated) as the Blue Butterfly.

The plot is a bit of a mess but it doesn't really matter - there is so much to take in visually. As for the lengthy opening sequence on a ship called The Wonder in the Straits of Malacca during a violent storm (and the bookend ending), I could have done with less of it. I was eager for Alice to take us into the colourful, extraordinary world of Wonderland as soon as possible.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
A wonderful, vibrant, inventive and visually astonishing film, this Alice does justice to the Lewis Carroll creation and justifies harvesting that beloved old world. It offers whimsy, drama, philosophy and wisdom as well as courage and determination as themes to help propel a story about a young woman's quest - before strident feminism made such a story trite.

Mia Wasikowska in the title role gives us the gutsy girl next door - well, an 18th century version - who inherits her father's sailing ship and captains it. The opening sequence shows her at the helm, barking orders with confidence, evading pirates with damned clever manoeuvring (womanoevring?) and bringing the merchant vessel safely home to the port of London, filled with cargo from the East. But she returns to her widow mother (Lindsay Duncan)to find the young new Lord Ascot (Leo Bill) doing dastardly things to their estate ...and that's when her adventures really begin, as she is led through the looking glass by the blue butterfly (voice of Alan Rickman).

The story spins around time (note: you can't change the past) and here it is personified by Sacha Baron Cohen, sporting what I figure is an Austrian accent. As unlikely as it seems, he makes a great fantasy figure and let's face it, this is a fantasy world which is rich even on the page. The filmmakers have taken the ideas and descriptions and turned them into screen magic, full of colour, action and dramatic creations ranging from extreme hairdos and makeup to extreme objects.

Johnny Depp transforms into the fantastical Hatter (made up and dressed to fit a spectacular dream), his story being the backbone of the plot, featuring the loss of his family. Woven into this is the historic sibling rivalry between the beautiful white queen (Anne Hathaway) and the revenge-driven, spiteful Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), whose head has swollen after a nasty accidental knock on the head ... but one caused by a domestic in which her sister the White Queen plays a central role.

So much texture, yet so clearly told, even grown ups can follow and understand.

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Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

(US, 2016)

CAST: Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Mia Wasikowska, Sacha Baron Cohen, Andrew Scott, Rhys Ifans, Frances de la Tour, Matt Lucas

VOICES: Michael Sheen, Toby Jones, Stephen Fry, Timothy Spall

PRODUCER: Tim Burton, Joe Roth, Jennifer Todd, Suzanne Todd

DIRECTOR: James Bobin

SCRIPT: Linda Woolverton (books by Lewis Carroll)


EDITOR: Andrew Weisblum

MUSIC: Danny Elfman


RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes



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