“Alice Through the Looking Glass,” the sequel to the 2010 release “Alice in Wonderland,” should have been called “Alice in Blunder Land.” From a complete disregard of Lewis Carroll’s book to a convoluted tale of time travel, the sequel falls apart faster than Humpty Dumpty on a trampoline.
The action picks up three years after Alice’s (Mia Wasikowska) previous trip to Wonderland. Her life as the captain of her father’s ship (the most unbelievable part of a movie where anything is supposed to be possible) is threatened. That problem is put aside while she returns to Wonderland to find The Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) fading away from grief.
Hatter believes his family is still alive, despite reports they were killed years ago. Alice heads back through time to save Hatter’s family from a dragon fire death. It’s a race against Time (Sacha Baron Cohen) to complete the mission.
The sequel faces many of the same problems as the original film, plus some new stumbles of its own.
It starts with the screenplay by Linda Woolverton, who was also the writer of the first film. Rather than embrace the clever and original writing of Carroll, Woolverton finds bland and safe ways of telling her version of the story.
Carroll’s original book is a masterful tale of Alice and the weirdlings of Wonderland played out as if the world were a giant chess board. His story unfolds through clever wordplay. The muddled script by Woolverton has Alice stealing a time-travel device to focus on the Red Queen’s (Helena Bonham Carter) origin more than Hatter’s woes.
All characters and plot moves in the original stories were designed to test the reader’s mind. Woolverton goes with a conventional linear approach that works in more traditional tales but not here. Wonderland is supposed to be a place where the absurd is the norm.
The closest she comes to bringing Carroll’s original story out is a chess set where the pieces come to life. But, the comparisons end there, as do any similarities to the original book.
Wasikowska’s Alice just doesn’t embody the spirit that made Alice such a noted literary character.
One of the saving graces of the original film was that Depp had found a character that suited him to a “tea” – making Hatter both sympathetic and silly. Reducing him to a faded version of himself in this film robs the movie of one of its most interesting characters.
What’s left is Cohen’s failed attempt at playing Time as another quirky character. Time is only a slight variation of other Cohen characters and lacks originality.
Even the new supporting players are less original, including the mechanical servant for Time that looks like a Tik-Tok prop left over from Disney’s failed “Return to Oz.”
The best thing about “Alice Through the Looking Glass” is the special effects that create the colorful world. It is a fanciful blend of exotic landscapes and beautifully crafted characters.
Those who opt to see the move in 3-D won’t be able to fully appreciate those elements. The movie is so dark in 3-D that all of the visual splendor is reduced to a foggy version of itself.
The original “Alice in Wonderland” had problems, but it now looks like a classic compared to all of the miscues and misfires of “Alice Through the Looking Glass.” If you find yourself thinking you are late for a very important date to see this movie, opt for a cup of tea instead.