Movie review: Alice takes a convoluted trip back through "Looking Glass"

Brad Keefe, Columbus Alive

It's hard to imagine anyone clamoring for a sequel to Tim Burton's 2010 live-action "Alice in Wonderland," with the obvious exception of an executive at Disney.

The garish original was passable entertainment at best, an unpleasant affront to its source material at worst. It also managed to become just the sixth movie to make $1 billion worldwide. That's a sure-fire recipe for a sequel.

And a sequel we get, some six years later and without Burton at the helm - although his stylistic choices have painted this "Alice" into a familiar corner of that gothic funhouse that is Burton's signature.

"Alice Through the Looking Glass" has a plot I can only describe as "curiouser and curiouser." Alice (Mia Wasikowska) has spent the years since her last Wonderland adventure sailing the seas, as we learn in an opening scene that may have been left over from one of Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies.

Then there's something about some financial troubles or some such. Is this important? I guess. It's all just wheel-spinning until we get Alice back to Wonderland, right?

And what leads her back there? Well, her dear friend the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) is going to die, apparently because he is sad. The White Queen (Anne Hathaway) hatches a plot that involves time travel, because obviously.

Alice must "borrow" a time-controlling device called the Chronosphere from the personification of Time (Sacha Baron Cohen) to alter the events that have made the Mad Hatter into the Sad Hatter.

It gets even more convoluted from there, but the plot mostly serves to patch together more CGI-driven visual spectacle. And, sure, there's some eye candy, but it all feels more like a poorly paced video game.

Stepping into Burton's role in the director's chair is James Bobin, who directed the movie resurrections of "The Muppets" for Disney. This "Alice" could have used an injection of humor and whimsy, but instead it relies on weighty moments between characters you don't really care about.

Overall, the cartoonish CGI overwhelms, lacking the sense of awe we saw recently in Disney's far superior "The Jungle Book." The success of the last movie combined with the might of the Disney marketing arm probably ensures this will be a success, but this isn't the kind of movie you should reward with your money.

"Alice Through the Looking Glass"

Opens Thursday

1 1/2 stars out of 4