Movie review of “Alice Through the Looking Glass”: Colorful film is lovely to look at but could have used more quirk. Rating: 2 stars out of 4.
Curiouser and curiouser. The colorful live-action Disney film “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” coming six years after its predecessor “Alice in Wonderland” (directed by Tim Burton, who wisely sat this one out), somehow manages to be at once chaotic and dull. Lovely to look at, to be sure — Colleen Atwood’s costumes are exuberant perfection, and the Mad Hatter’s adorably chapeau-shaped cottage made me want to move in immediately — but dull. To paraphrase Lewis Carroll, the movie’s running as fast as it can, but still remains in the same place.
Actually, that’s the problem right there: not enough Carroll. Don’t buy a ticket expecting to see a filmed version of Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass, And What Alice Found There” (his 1871 sequel to “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” published six years earlier). The story here is mostly quite different: a grown-up Alice (Mia Wasikowska), who’s now captain of her father’s merchant ship, heads through a looking glass back to Wonderland, where she helps the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) reunite with his family and the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) to get in touch with her own origin story, alongside a tick-tocking villain named Time (Sacha Baron Cohen).
Surely, I don’t need to tell you that Bonham Carter’s wonderfully bigheaded queen is much more entertaining when she’s yelling “Off with her head!” than when reliving childhood trauma. Depp’s Hatter, meanwhile, has gotten so wispily weird I’m not convinced he’s actually there at all. (An actor lost in a role, or a role lost in an actor? Carroll might appreciate the question.) Meanwhile, Anne Hathaway reprises her amusing Glinda-the-Good-Witch take on the White Queen, and the late Alan Rickman’s voice — as always, smoother than cream — graces us for the last time as the wise Caterpillar. “Alice Through the Looking Glass” isn’t without pleasures, but this empowerment-meets-fantasy mixture could have used a few more sprinklings of quirk.
Movie Review ★★
‘Alice Through the Looking Glass, ’ with Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Rhys Ifans, Sacha Baron Cohen and the voices of Stephen Fry, Alan Rickman, Michael Sheen and Timothy Spall. Directed by James Bobin, from a screenplay by Linda Woolverton. 112 minutes. Rated PG for fantasy action/peril and some language. Several theaters.