Entertainment

Eye candy trumps plot in ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’

Helena Bonham Carter, left, and Mia Wasikowska appear in a scene from "Alice Through The Looking Glass."
Helena Bonham Carter, left, and Mia Wasikowska appear in a scene from "Alice Through The Looking Glass." Disney

What It’s About

A trippy showcase for the latest visual effects wizardry, “Alice Through the Looking Glass” takes us on another adventure that is long on twee but short on story.

Plucky Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is summoned to Underland once more to help a dying Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp). She must time-travel, and therefore takes on Time (Sacha Baron Cohen), who is not happy about her shenanigans.

This sequel to the grandiose 2010 Disney adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s classic “Alice in Wonderland” parades the distinctive characters — Cheshire Cat, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and the March Hare — through a beautifully rendered fantasy.

In the real world of 1875, Alice has returned from her successful journey as a sea captain of her late father’s ship, eager to open new markets in the world.

She has a modern sense and sensibility that makes her a threat among the male bastion of business leaders and snooty British upper-crust.

Besides battling those formidable foes and conventional society, she must stay one step ahead of Time and his girlfriend, The Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), to save her pals.

The film’s luster enhances the wonder and whimsy, but the plot is too flimsy to keep us engaged.

The film’s first-rate cast and its pretty look are the saving graces here. And don’t expect it to adhere to Carroll’s follow-up story.

Performances

The returning all-star cast cavorts to keep us engaged. Wasikowska (“Crimson Peak”) capably handles Alice’s two worlds, while the major players do what’s expected of them at this masquerade ball.

Depp (“Black Mass”) emphasizes Hatter’s eccentricities, and does what you expect in the story’s psychedelic realm.

Carter and Cohen, who played the comical Thenardiers in “Les Miserables,” are again a hoot chewing up the scenery as the Red Queen and Time. They capitalize on every affectation.

Carter (“Suffragette”) is basically one note, but she sure can deliver a line with style. Cohen (“Sweeney Todd”) is just plain funny in whatever persona he submerges himself.

Matt Lucas excels as the odd pair Tweedledum and Tweedledee — give them their own movie!

The best part, however, is bittersweet — hearing the late Alan Rickman’s exquisite voice again as the Blue Caterpillar.

What Works

The 2010 film won Oscars for art direction and costume design, and the latest designs are also superb. Eye candy abounds, and the visual feast is almost overwhelming at times.

What Doesn’t Work

But this isn’t a slide show, and as the characters prance through one perilous scene to the next, we’re bombarded with fiery fantastical effects.

The plot is inconsequential. It’s as if a 19th century British story was transported into a contemporary video game. Jarring indeed, but it looks fabulous.

Perhaps director James Bobin (“The Muppets”) never intended to rein anything in, and we’re supposed to be sensory-overloaded from the dizzying delirium.

“Alice Throught the Looking Glass”

  • Director: James Bobin
  • Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter and Anne Hathaway.
  • Rated PG
  • 108 minutes
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