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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Alice Through the Looking Glass is the less-violent sequel to 2010's Alice in Wonderland, based on Lewis Carroll's classic tales. Although Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, and other main characters reprise their roles, Tim Burton isn't the director this time. While there are certainly moments of peril and fantasy violence -- including some close calls when key characters seem on the verge of death -- the sequel is actually less scary/bloodthirsty than its predecessor. There's one comical death (someone's time is literally up) and tense moments when it seems like the past, present, and future have been destroyed. Alice's courage and determination make her a force to be reckoned with, even though she's considered "hysterical" back in 19th-century England. Expect some insults along the lines of "imbecile" and "stupid."
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What's the story?
Based on Lewis Carroll's classic books, ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS is the sequel to 2010's Alice in Wonderland, once again starring Mia Wasikowska as Alice and Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter. A few years have passed since Alice, facing an engagement she didn't want, was first in Underland. Stripped of her satisfying career as a sea captain on her father's trading ship (thanks to her vengeful ex-fiance) and facing the prospect of life as a clerk, Alice ends up back in the other world, where the Hatter is sickly and depressed -- convinced that his entire family is alive, even though everyone knows they perished in a Jabberwocky-caused fire long ago. Princess Mirana (Anne Hathaway) tasks Alice with finding Time (Sacha Baron Cohen), stealing his chronosphere, traveling to the past, and stopping the Hatter family's deaths. But as Alice quickly finds out, stealing the chronosphere has life-altering consequences, made all the worse because the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) is also interested in stealing it and using it for her own purposes.
Is it any good?
Visually stimulating but uneven, this sequel owes a debt to Burton's trippy original but lacks cohesive narrative other than to explain the origins of Hatter's sadness and the Red Queen's head. The Mad Hatter is especially reduced to a grieving, unstable phantom of his previous self, leaving poor Depp with little to do other than make alternating sad, hopeful, and cheerful eyes at Alice. Alice is still plucky, but now there's an edge to her, like when she angrily tells her mother that she hopes never to end up like her. And the supporting players so beloved in the first film make only brief appearances, while Cohen and Carter chew up the scenery.
James Bobin does his best to conjure the same whimsical fantasy land that Burton did the first time around, but the tone in Alice Through the Looking Glass is dark, uncomfortable, and slightly underwhelming. There's some humor, usually courtesy of Cohen, but otherwise this is a tale of a family lost and two sisters torn apart by a flimsy, childhood lie. Alan Rickman's absence is noticeable, although his voice makes an appearance at the beginning of the story. And although Wasikowska is quite luminous and talented an actress, the movie is entertaining but not the extraordinary adaptation that Carroll's work deserves.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about movie adaptations of classic books. What makes a movie version of a book worth watching? Does Alice Through the Looking Glass succeed? How does it compare with the original source and other adaptations?
Does the movie have any role models? If so, who are they? What makes Alice brave? What makes the Hatter sad?
What parts of the movie were scary? How did it compare to the first one? How much scary stuff can young kids handle?
- In theaters: May 27, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: October 18, 2016
- Cast: Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter
- Director: James Bobin
- Studio: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Book Characters
- Character Strengths: Courage
- Run time: 113 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: fantasy action/peril and some language
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