While 2010’s “Alice In Wonderland” may have left critics unimpressed, audiences embraced its restless, kooky energy as Lewis Carroll’s mastery of the absurd and impossible was filtered through the dark kaleidoscope of Tim Burton’s vision. Six years later, “The Muppets” & “Muppets Most Wanted” director James Bobin has been tasked with delivering a sequel.
Alice faces difficulties in the real world as her spurned ex-fiancé manoeuvres to take her father’s business from her she is summoned back to [W]Underland by Absolom the butterfly (Alan Rickman in his final role) to help save the Hatter, who has fallen into depression. In order to restore her friend, she must venture to the castle of Time himself and journey through the impossible events of Underland’s history.
Bobin does a creditable job of recreating the aesthetic of the original film and, while he’s at it, borrows heavily from Henson, Disney’s “Return To Oz” and even, curiously, Michael Bay’s “Transformers” franchise. Unfortunately, visuals are all this confused and ultimately pointless tale have to offer. It starts brightly enough with a rousing naval adventure as we find Alice as the captain of her father’s ship, outwitting pirates on the high seas. But once she arrives back in Blighty it loses its way with a disposably irrelevant subplot concerning Hamish’s plan to deprive her of her family’s boat or house. But as uncompelling as the real world story is, it’s a ripping yarn compared to the muddled and convoluted snoozefest that awaits us in Underland.
Time (Sacha Baron Cohen) makes for an interesting addition but Alice’s Whovian quest through history in search of the Hatter’s family isn’t as interesting as it thinks it is and the story never really gets to grips with what it wants to say. Clearly unsure of what, exactly, made the first film popular, the makers also bring back most of the cast for tedious ‘see, here they are – again’ cameos for fear they leave out the magic ingredient.
Dependent as it is on the back stories of not only the Hatter but the White and Red Queen too, this unnecessary sequel suffers all the narrative pitfalls of a prequel too, leeching any sense of drama or genuine peril. It sparks briefly into life when it makes good on its promise of its own version of the Blinovitch Limitation Effect but by then it’s too little too late.
Pretty to look at – even though it’s an all too sugary CGI confection – it’s an empty spectacle, lacking a strong enough story to realise its ambition of reforging Alice as a feminist hero. There’s no faulting the effort put in by the cast, director and crew it’s just that their combined talents aren’t enough to make up for the fact there’s no reason for any of them to be there.