In this abominable adaptation of “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” Alice is not a little girl, but a full-grown woman with a rewarding career as a sea captain. The movie is bloated, boring and over-laden with special effects. And if you listen really closely, you can hear the sound of Lewis Carroll in the next world, throwing up.
“Alice Through the Looking Glass” is a sequel to Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland,” and though it’s directed by James Bobin (“The Muppets”), it has the Burton look — the murky interiors, the garish costumes and the makeup that’s somewhere between scary and comical, like a nightmare about clowns. And, of course, it co-stars Johnny Depp, who, with skill and precision, reprises his portrayal of the Hatter as a strange, lisping weirdo.
Depp is the most interesting thing about “Alice Through the Looking Glass.” His characterization is meticulous and eye-catching. It’s clearly the product of much thought and investment, and there are flickers of brilliance. And yet it’s like watching something that has been practiced and perfected in a mirror. Depp acts like someone with a strange unawareness that he must engage with the other actors.
This is a particular problem for “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” because the screenwriters try to hang the entire story on Alice’s friendship with the Hatter. Early in the movie, Alice (Mia Wasikowska) visits him, and we see that he’s a disconnected oddball. And yet she leaves the meeting with a bizarre determination to solve the Hatter’s problems. She must go back in time to save the Hatter’s family from the caprice and cruelty of the evil queen (Helena Bonham Carter).
The looking glass, in this adaptation, is not a dive into the unconscious, but rather a means of time travel. Alice has to meet up with Time (Sacha Baron Cohen), steal a magic orb that turns into a time machine and then change the course of events. Curiously, she has her transportation all taken care of — you’d think that would be the hard part — but she has absolutely no idea what to do when she gets there.
The movie has no idea, either. Alice is like the movie itself, frenetic and scrambling, but with no thought or purpose. The screenplay is really just an excuse for visuals, but without a purpose behind the visuals, they quickly become as dull as a laser show, or a computer screen saver.
‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’
☆ (out of 4)
Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp.
Director: James Bobin.
Running time: 1 hour, 53minutes.