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Alice Through the Looking Glass: Movie Review

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Seeking to spin box office gold once more from a time-tested classic, Disney may fall short this time with the Alice Through the Looking Glass (opening nationwide this weekend), the sequel to the 2010 blockbuster Alice in Wonderland.

With The Jungle Book, Malificent and Cinderella reaping nearly $800 million dollars over the last two years, Alice Through the Looking Glass is a far cry from the Lewis Carroll tale of childhood fantasy and poetic verse.  Save for the vivid imagery and vibrant colorful costumes, this movie is a dreary two hours spent. 

Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland) and Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Carribean) return to lead an all-star cast left largely intact from the first Alice release.  While Tim Burton (Big Eyes) remains involved in a producer’s role, James Bobin (Muppets Most Wanted) steps in to direct this time around.


Alice Kingsleigh  (Wasikowska) has been learning many life lessons in three years at sea, captaining her father’s ship through many ports of call, most notably, China.  With a new sense of purpose she returns to London to find that life as she knew it has changed greatly.  Disenchanted with her circumstances, Alice encounters Absolem (the late Alan Rickman), a mysterious butterfly that leads her through a magical looking glass.  She soon finds herself back in Wonderland.

Upon her return, Alice discovers that the Hatter (Depp) has taken a turn for the worse, and is now acting madder than usual because he is being haunted by some traumatic past events involving his family.  Hoping to remedy the troubles of her dear friend, Alice borrows a time machine called a Chronosphere and returns to the past to hopefully correct these events.

Racing against time, Alice makes many discoveries that explain the present state of Wonderland including the contentious relationship between the White Queen (Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables) and the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter, The King’s Speech).  On her journey, she learns how to solve not only the Hatter’s problems but her own as well.


Visually spectacular, Alice Through the Looking Glass is a tour de force of dazzling digital effects and elaborate costumes.  Highly impressive in scope, the CGI backgrounds are vast and surreal, sometimes to a fault.  Viewers can easily get caught up in the visual grandeur and sometimes lose track of what is happening in the story.

Bobin, who directed the last two Muppet movies, paces the film much too quickly, so much so that viewers can never fully appreciate what is happening with the plot. Along the way, a chess set that has a life of its own, a time ocean, and a series of robots whiz by so quickly that you are never really quite sure how everything fits together.

Despite a convincing turn as the Hatter in Alice in Wonderland, Depp is underutilized in the sequel.  While his makeup is even more detailed than the first film, his use of riddles and puns is far more limited in Alice Through the Looking Glass.  Naturally, this reduces his onscreen chemistry with Wasikowska, a hallmark of the first movie.

Alice Through the Looking Glass does contain some positive life-lessons that will appeal to Christian audiences.  The theme of forgiveness takes center stage late in the movie when the Red Queen finally finds forgiveness from a close but unlikely source.  Doing so frees her from what has been a life of misery.  In addition, Alice experiences a newfound sense of love and compassion for her mother when Mrs. Kingsleigh defends her daughter’s honor… a heady decision for late 19th century London.

The mystical whimsy of the literary version of Alice in Wonderland is a topic that has received considerable debate over the years for its political and sometimes drug-fueled allusions.  Disney has done a credible job of toning down such imagery in Alice Through the Looking Glass yet it still may not be enough for some who are easily offended.


While Bobin’s new tale from Carroll’s classic children’s story delivers lush visual imagery that is unparalleled, the storyline struggles to keep pace.  Alice Through the Looking Glass may be a visual marvel but at the end of the day it is all about the story.  And this oddly quirky fable is a bit weird and doesn’t hold up.

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About The Author


Chris Carpenter is the program director for, the official website of the Christian Broadcasting Network. He also serves as executive producer for myCBN Weekend, an Internet exclusive webcast show seen on In addition to his regular duties, Chris writes extensively for the website. Over the years, he has interviewed many notable entertainers, athletes, and politicians including Oscar winners Matthew McConaughy and Reese Witherspoon, evangelist Franklin Graham, author Max Lucado, Super Bowl winning coach Tony Dungy and former presidential hopefuls Sen. Rick Santorum and Gov. Mike