Hatters Gonna Hat.

Alice Through the Looking Glass is a profoundly sophisticated children’s film, because, of course, it was created in the spirit of Lewis Carroll’s book that was intended for adults. The filmmaker stayed true to the spirit of the story while creating a fantastical world that children adventured through.

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Alice is played with soft determination by Mia Wasikowska. Her character is introduced as a tough female ship captain, escaping what seems to be an impossible, inescapable attack. She refuses to accept “impossible” as a legitimate concept and steers her crew to safety. That limitless determination and creative spark is exactly what defines Alice, as she traverses physical reality and “wonderland.”

Wonderland features a cast of whimsical characters like the Queen of Hearts, played by Helena Bonham Carter, The Queen Mirana by a stiff Anne Hathaway, and the Mad Hatter, played by Johnny Depp as an effeminate, child-like weirdo who calls upon Alice to prove her friendship by bringing his lost family back to him.

The special effects are awesome–from the ocean-like waves of the past to the enormous turning gears inside the giant clock of eternal time. Alice’s world is colorful, full of whimsy and wonder, joyful and vibrant characters, but grounded in serious emotion and hard truth. The emotions run the gamut from fear and betrayal to loss and grief. The hard truth is that there is no way around them.

Alice plots a course through Time, the personification of which is played brilliantly by Sasha Baron Cohen, as only he can. Time is a thief, and life, as we know, is a race against time itself. James Bobin, the director who’s worked with Cohen on “Borat” and “Ali G”, displays these themes by creating a time machine that Alice steals in order to reverse events and change the outcomes in the present.

It seems that the Queen of Hearts’ evil nature stems from a head wound that swelled her brain causing mania. To reverse the fall that caused her injury would solve everything, but mostly prevent the Mad Hatter’s family from being forever lost. That the Queen and Mad Hatter embody mental illness might be lost on the children watching the film, but not on the parents who might recognize some of the symptoms—and stigmas—attached to depression and bipolarity. A particularly touching scene happens when we see Mad Hatter as a boy feeling summarily rejected by his father for his flamboyant hat making. He carries this sting with him into a stunted adulthood, only to be reconciled at the end when he finds that his father had kept his first hat-making attempt in his breast pocket close to his heart and has always accepted his son as a “hatter.”

Anyone who has seen a movie knows that Alice’s time travel will never work out–as does Time, who warns her that she can’t change the past, but can simply learn from it.

And learn she does–the nature of forgiveness, the true meaning of what is possible, the strength of familial ties, and the transformative power of friendship. Grown-up lessons, dressed up as children’s play.

(Photo credit: Alice Through The Looking Glass/Facebook)

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