** ½ out of four
Alice Through the Looking Glass is very, very, very loosely based on Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871), his sequel novel to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865). In fact, the on-screen credits for director James Bobin's movie say “Based on characters created by Lewis Carroll” and don't even credit the book at all. But then again, this is the movie sequel to Tim Burton's 2010 Alice in Wonderland film,which is also a free adaptation. If you are willing to accept that Through the Looking Glass is a bastardization of the source material you may find this as serviceable entertainment.
Adventurer Alice Kingsleigh (Mia Wasikowska) returns to the magical world of wonderland and finds that the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp looking like Carrot Top) is sad and dying because of a rotten childhood plus the death of his family. To save the Hatter, Alice decides to jump back in time to prevent the Hatter's family from being burnt to a crisp by the dragon-like Jabberwocky. Hot on her heels to foil her plan, however, is Time himself (Sacha Baron Cohen) and the diabolical Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter).
The movie hammers home messages about love and family and following your heart, and it's all slathered in CGI effects. But, I must admit, some of the digital imagery is quite stunning to behold, like looking at a beautiful oil painting.
Once the story – as silly as it is – gets going, this turns into a fairly engaging fantasy/adventure, thanks, in no small part, to a committed performance by Wasikowska. Really, you and the kids can do far worse than Alice Through the Looking Glass. It's a mild bit of fun.