When Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland hit theatres in 2010, Disney was rushing to make live action remakes of all of their older, more popular animated features. Though it was met with mixed review, the film at least had the good sense to bring a bit more darkness into a world filled to the brim with lunatics. The larger problems of two dimensional characters and incoherent storytelling could be forgiven for bringing author Lewis Carrol’s whimsical world back to life. While the first film may have possessed the allure of being a new spin on an old tale, Through the Looking Glass is nothing but a cash grab hoping that the same formula will work twice. Though the created CGI world does admittedly look impressive, the terrible story cohesion and character writing makes for a tale best left on the bookshelf. Taken over by Muppets director James Bobin, Alice Through the Looking Glass finds our titular character (played by the wonderful Mia Wasikowska) having returned to the real world as a swashbuckling pirate fighter… of sorts. After completing her voyage at sea which began at the end of the first Alice, her old suitor Hamish inexplicably shows up to demand possession of her ship, The Wonder. Rather than deal with her real world problems, Alice decides to say F*ck it and heads back down the rabbit hole, or rather, through a mirror that has trans-dimensional powers for some reason. Much like a bad LSD trip, the less questions you ask, the more you will enjoy the ride.
Alice eventually meets back up with her old crew of wonderland misfits like the White Queen (Anne Hathoway), Tweedledee and Tweedledum (Matt Lucas), and the Chesire Cat (Stephen Fry). All are on a quest to help Johnny Depp’s nightmare worthy Mad Hatter cope with the loss of his family after a Jaberwocky decided they were better off dead. The White Queen orders Alice to go back in time to save the Hatter’s family and bring him back from the Disney equivalent of suicide. It is here where we meet the film’s one strength in the form of Sacha Baron Cohen’s Time. Time is a German sounding cooky sort who never comes off as a true antagonist. He denies Alice’s request for time travel because changing the past will (and later does) have nasty repercussions. So when talking doesn’t work, Alice throws caution to the winds and steal a time ship which is basically the equivalent of a Dr. Who Tardis with better special effects. This makes it hard to root for Alice, who is really kind of a jerk for putting the universe at risk just so her old chum can be happy. Be that as it may, Time begins a merry chase after her and the duo fight through history.
Though the story and characters are hard to follow, the film is not without merit. Alice Through the Looking Glass boasts much more impressive set pieces than its predecessor, fully realizing the crazy world of Wonderland. The film is also quite funny thanks to expert comedic timing from Bobin’s direction. Just when you start getting overly frustrated at the lack of sense in the plot, a funny quip will keep you going. Sadly, this is really all the film has to offer. Besides the very obvious CGI worlds and occasional funny moments nothing happens that will stay with you outside of the theatre. Instead, this lackluster piece will simply have you asking for your money back. RDR gives Alice Through the Looking Glass a 3 out of 10.