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*This review does not contain spoilers.
Witty, whimsical, and often nonsensical is a description you hear when describing the fiction of Lewis Carroll, the author and creator of Alice in Wonderland, popular with both children and adults for over 150 years.
The latest screen adaptation Alice Through the Looking Glass by director James Bobin and writer Linda Woolverton brings the romp a humorous twist, taking the reins from Tim Burton, the mastermind of fantasy, who directed the first major modern version of Alice in Wonderland in 2010.
Mia Wasikowska, who is back in her role of Alice, said in an interview that one of the aims of the film was to make a satire of female hysteria, “which was taken seriously not that long ago.” In the early 19th century, the symptoms of female hysteria (it was a female only thing) included hallucinations, emotional outbursts and urges of sex, with the cure involving anything from medicine to vibrators . . . huh, maybe we are getting off track here. This, after all, is not that kind of story.
Wasikowska is wonderful as Alice and portrays with flair the strong-willed young lady, with a masculine drive and a vivid imagination. “I thought they accidentally gave me the script of Alice of the Caribbean,” Wasikowska said in the interview making the reporters laugh out loud.
In Alice Through the Looking Glass, Alice returns to the fantastical realm of Underland and reunites with her friends from the White Rabbit (Michael Sheen) to the Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry) and of course the Mad Hatter, played by the one and only, Johnny Depp.
Hatter is suffering from depression, and Alice decides to help him. During the storyline, Alice meets new characters, such as the Time himself, played phenomenally by the British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, who goes a long way with director Bobin.
While Burton excels in dreamy landscapes and darker stories, Bobin succeeds in directing twisted, light-hearted humour.
In the mid-2000s, Cohen as the actor and Bobin as the writer, entertained us with gangsta reporter Ali G in Da Ali G Show, and later Cohen became known as Borat, a TV reporter from Kazakhstan, who once said to a car salesman while talking about his ex-wife: “Her vagine hang like sleeve of wizard.”
Johnny Depp said at the Graham Norton show that he appreciated working with Cohen, whom he respects deeply. In Alice Through the Looking Glass, the duo’s chemistry involves one of the most hilarious joke dialogues in the film.
The good and the bad queens are still around. Mirana (Anne Hathaway) is the sister to her big-headed evil-ish queen Iracebeth (Helena Bonham Carter), and the story digs into the history and reveals why Iracebeth’s head actually is so large.
But what remains unsolved, is for example, how did Mad Hatter become mad. Depp, however, explained on the Norton show that in the 19th century hatters used mercury as a substance while making their hats. Long exposures to mercury vapours had neurotoxic effects, and the symptoms of irrational characteristic became known as the mad hatter disease. Depp knows the history as well as he lives in the film’s surrealism.
Alice Through the Looking Glass is an entertaining romp, taking you once again on a ride to the Wonderland, where butterflies talk and carrots walk; where Alice’s motto of achieving six impossible things before breakfast seems natural. As taking a breath.
Alice Through the Looking Glass premieres in cinemas May 25.