How do you spin a sequel that rivals the colorful eccentricity of 2010’s Alice in Wonderland? By playing with time, of course. “At first, a story didn’t originally present itself,” says producer Suzanne Todd of the follow up to Disney’s live-action blockbuster. “So we took a long time to settle on this idea that was interesting to all of us, which was to take on the concept of time.”
Directed by Flight of the Conchords helmer James Bobin, Alice Through the Looking Glass brings audiences face to face with Time himself, a quirky, half-clock, half-human character played by Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat).
“In terms of his behavior, he’s definitely the kookiest of all,” Todd says of the film’s ensemble, which features returning cast members Mia Wasikowska as Alice, Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, Anne Hathaway as the White Queen, and Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen. In keeping with Disney’s tradition of villains with special powers, Time has the ability to travel back and forth through different time periods, a coveted skill secreted in a gold-colored chromosphere, which “everyone wants, Alice needs it, but the Red Queen wants most of all,” shares Todd. “It basically powers time moving forward.”
Centered on Alice’s return to London after her transatlantic travels and her ensuing adventures in Underland as she tries to rescue an aging Mad Hatter, Alice Through the Looking Glass also makes good use of Cohen’s legendary improv skills.
“I felt like for the rest of the cast, part of the challenge this time was trying to keep up with Sacha,” Todd says. “It’s like if you were someone who barely jogs and had to go out with a marathon runner.”
Just don’t expect to see the British comedian spouting political monologues or sporting a mankini, comedic antics that have played a big part in his previous routines. “His comedy won’t feel like Ali G, and it won’t feel like Borat,” notes Todd. “It feels like it fits into our world.”
Alice Through the Looking Glass opens in theaters May 27.