Alice Through The Looking Glass **

Alice needed to keep looking for a script that is actually coherent.

Is it worth $10? No

If there’s one guarantee in Hollywood, it’s this: If a movie makes gobs of money, there will be a sequel. Thus after “Alice In Wonderland” (2010) earned more than $1 billion worldwide, “Alice Through The Looking Glass” became an inevitability, and thankfully it’s not just a cheap cash grab – the effort is clearly there to do something special.

Too bad they couldn’t pull it off.

With “Alice” director Tim Burton only serving as a producer here, and James Bobin (“The Muppets”) stepping into the director’s chair, perhaps some fall off is expected. After all, “Alice” was perfect fit for Burton’s oeuvre – the story of an outsider helping others, lush visuals, the chance to work with Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, etc. Bobin, however, doesn’t (yet) have a style to call his own, and maybe that’s why so much of “Looking Glass” feels like it needs an upgrade.

It doesn’t help that Linda Woolverton’s (“Maleficent”) script (based on “Through The Looking-Glass” by Lewis Carroll) is so scattered across timelines and alternate realities that Alice (Mia Wasikowska) bounces from one to the next every ten minutes. If Alice is all over the place it means the story is all over the place, which barely gives Bobin a fighting chance to reel it all in for coherence.

The film starts on the high seas with Alice now a ship’s captain who’s under attack from pirates. No, this is not a dream sequence. She saves the day and her crew by nearly running the ship aground, later saying that she doesn’t believe in the “impossible.” Weak and hokey dialog is omnipresent, but remember it’s a PG-rated kids’ movie so being on the nose with thematic messages is par for the course. What also strikes you immediately is more important: The visuals (as seen in IMAX 3D) are bold and crisp, and notably “pop” in 3D throughout. If you decide to see the film, this is your only option for optimum enjoyment.

Alice’s journey soon takes her back to Wonderland, where she learns from the Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry), Bayard (Timothy Spall), Tweedledee and Tweedledum (Matt Lucas), the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), McTwisp (Michael Sheen) and others that the Mad Hatter (Depp) is depressed and missing his family. The problem is they’re dead. The Hatter nonetheless asks Alice to travel back in time to save them. What are friends for, right? To do so she must encounter Time (Sacha Baron Cohen) himself and deal with his nasty girlfriend the Queen of Hearts (Bonham Carter), who also wants to go back in time to relieve herself of her big head and awful haircut.

There are some clever moments that play with the idea of time – seconds join together to form minutes, which later join to form hours – but there’s not much here that’s intellectually engaging. Watching “Alice Through The Looking Glass” is like having your mind lost in a Lewis Carroll lollipop that’s all sweetness and gumdrops (and tea!) with no bite or edge. Just think about the story as described above: It seems so far-fetched with so much going on that it can’t possibly be taken seriously, and yet every word of the description is accurate. Maybe it’s all too sugary cookie-cutter sweet for me. Or maybe it’s just not a good movie.

Did you know?
This is the great Alan Rickman’s final film; he voices Absolem, who was a caterpillar in “Alice” but is now a butterfly.

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