Bobin’s gone for a Bur­ton

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re­leased 27 May PG | 108 min­utes Di­rec­tor James Bobin Cast Johnny depp, Mia Wasikowska, He­lena Bon­ham Carter, rhys Ifans

Why did the Mad Hat­ter go mad? What made the Red Queen fall out with the White Queen? Th­ese and other ques­tions you prob­a­bly haven’t been ask­ing are an­swered in this re­turn visit to Tim Bur­ton’s “Un­der­land”, which cre­ates a back­story for char­ac­ters that didn’t par­tic­u­larly need one.

Once Mia Wasikowska’s Alice has re-en­tered Un­der­land through the tit­u­lar mirror, this adap­ta­tion jet­ti­sons any at­tempt to re­flect its source, in­stead giv­ing Alice a Mis­sion Un­pos­si­ble: travel back in time to find out what hap­pened to the Mad Hat­ter’s fam­ily, the un­re­solved fate of which has driven him to the edge of de­spair.

Movies have been made on flim­sier pre­texts. At least this one en­ables in­com­ing di­rec­tor James Bobin to play his trump card: Sacha Baron Co­hen as Time. It’s his do­main Alice must pen­e­trate to pinch the “chrono­sphere” that al­lows her to sail on the “oceans of time”. That’s only the begin­ning of an ad­ven­ture that has Alice meet ju­ve­nile in­car­na­tions of the Hat­ter and White Queen Mi­rana, and sees He­lena Bon­ham Carter’s Irace­beth en­dan­ger Un­der­land by in­ter­act­ing with her­self.

SBC and HBC pro­vide the lion’s share of the en­ter­tain­ment. Johnny Depp is muted in com­par­i­son, his Hat­ter spend­ing most of the story in a de­spon­dent funk rem­i­nis­cent of that Aus­tralian apol­ogy video. Per­haps that’s to be ex­pected from a sub­plot that re­duces his de­mented force of na­ture to a sad­sack with daddy is­sues, the re­sult of hav­ing his taste in millinery pil­lo­ried by a dis­ap­prov­ing fa­ther (Rhys Ifans) who per­ished in a Jab­ber­wock-ig­nited con­fla­gra­tion.

Or did he? That’s the mys­tery Bobin tries to keep us in­ter­ested in over a hec­tic 108 min­utes. The re­sult is an al­ways di­vert­ing fan­tasy that rarely stays still long enough for the viewer to pick holes. There is a hole, though – the one Bur­ton left when he traded the di­rec­tor’s chair for a pro­duc­ing role. Neil Smith

Though there’s no char­ac­ter of Time in Car­roll’s books, dur­ing the tea party the Hat­ter does talk about quar­relling with him.

Per­haps some­thing on page 96 has caught her eye.

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