Having cracked it last time, 'Alice through the Looking Glass' is a polished and shallow sequel

Newstalk's film critic Philip Molloy also takes a look at 'Love & Friendship' and 'Money Monster'

Alice through the looking glass, Money Monster, Love and Friendship

Mia Wasikowska and Johnny Depp reprise their roles in the Lewis Carroll adaptation [Disney]

Alice Through the Looking Glass (PG)

Alice Through the Looking Glass is a super-colourful sequel to Alice In Wonderland, which smashed the global box office for Disney and director/producer Tim Burton with a gross of over one billion dollars in 2010. It isn’t surprising that they have done a follow-up - but what is a little surprising is that it has taken them so long.

Then again, it could have taken four or five years to bring the movie’s all-star cast – Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen, Mia Wasikowska- together. 

Alice returns to the nonsensical realm of Underland when she is told by the caterpillar Absolom that the Mad Hatter is in a funk and is acting more mysteriously than ever. When she traces him, she finds that he is haunted by the disappearance of his family and she undertakes - with the assistance of the White Queen - to journey back in time and save both her old friend and his clan. 

The script uses this development as an opportunity to offer fans something they probably never desired: an origin story, chronicling what led the Red Queen (returning scene-stealer Helena Bonham Carter) such a tantrum-prone
harridan (it has to do with the Mad Hatter). Franchise newcomer Sacha Baron Cohen also factors in as a madcap half-clockwork, half-human demigod who protects the device used by Alice to travel in time. Like the film’s oversaturated palette, he throws everything into his performance, but little sticks, including his inscrutable accent (he seems to be doing a Christophe Waltz impersonation). 

Love & Friendship (G)

If you were asked to come up with a modern-day, filmic equivalent of Jane Austen it would probably be Whit Stillman, the American director of Metropolitan, Barcelona and The Last Days of Disco. Austen and Stillman were bound to “meet up” at some stage and in Love & Friendship he has undertaken - with enormous proficiency - to adapt one of her early works, the epistolary novel Lady Susan.

Set in and around London in the 1790s - though shot entirely in this country – it focuses on Lady Susan Vernon, a young widow who, while waiting for the social consequences of a personal indiscretion to abate, takes up temporary residence at her in-laws’ estate. And while there, the intelligently flirtatious Lady Vernon determines to matchmake for her teenage daughter and herself, enlisting the aid of an inventive old friend (Chloe Sevigny) in her scheme.

Although smaller, and more compact in scale, Love &  Friendship is as impressive an adaptation of Austen as we have seen, measuring up convincingly and delightfully to Emma, Pride & Prejudice and Sense & Sensibility. It is fluently structured and divinely played by a truly expert ensemble. Hopefully, someone will have the sense to keep Stillman making movies in this country.

Money Monster (15A)

In Money Monster, George Clooney plays Lee Gates a hucksterish celebrity stock picker and host of the garishly appointed, titular TV show who is kidnapped live on air by a disgruntled viewer when a piece of investment
advice fails dramatically. Kyle Budwell (played by Jack O’Connell), an earnest blue collar delivery man, blames Gates for the loss of an inheritance of $60,000 and threatens to blow up the presenter and the studio if he doesn’t provide some answers.

The early scenes in Money Monster, are the strongest, tick-tocking away with nervous suspense. What sharp dialogue and funny lines there are come from the TV show’s producer (played by Julia Roberts) who informs and teases and comments on the acts of the sweating Gates.  

The storyline is enacted in real time with the result that we get too much stuffed into a very short period of time and the mystery that is at the centre Kyle’s dilemma again unfolds too quickly and too unconvincingly. Money Monster has its moments but not enough of them. 

Every Wednesday, The Picture Show's Philip Molloy features on The Right Hook. Listen back to the segment in the podcast below:

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