'Alice Through the Looking Glass': Critics Lament, "All Frosting, No Cake"

" 'Alice Through the Looking Glass' is a movie for anyone who skimmed a passage of Lewis Carroll and thought, 'This is great, but it could use a bit more "Terminator." ' "

Alice Through the Looking Glass brings back Mia Wasikowska's Alice, Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter and the rest of Wonderland in the sequel to the 2010 Tim Burton film. 

The sequel, which also stars Anne Hathaway, Matt Lucas, Rhys Ifans, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen and Alan Rickman, opens May 27 with director James Bobin taking up Burton's mantle. 

As of Friday, Alice Through the Looking Glass had a low score of 34 on Metacritic and 29 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, leaving critics unimpressed with the screen adaptation of Lewis Carroll's work (one reviewer put it bluntly: "All frosting, no cake"). To compare, 2010's Alice in Wonderland scored 53 on Metacritic with 52 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. 

The film has been panned in reviews so far, with critics lamenting the sequel's lack of connection to Lewis Carroll's source material (Alice becomes a ship captain in the film version) with a "candy-shop production design" that can't quite save the story, but instead often runs right over it. 

The Hollywood Reporter's Sheri Linden says Alice is "just as overstuffed a phantasmagoria of CGI and makeup as the 2010 film. Its imagery can be striking or merely distracting, yet rarely transporting. Bypassing child-friendly charm for backstory psychology, its dreamscape is weighted with yadda-yadda-yadda about being true to yourself, honoring family and being loyal to friends." Linden adds that the sequel, while being true to the first film, doesn't quite stay true to its source material. "The story, which has nothing to do with Carroll’s episodic 1871 book beyond its title and a clutch of key characters, plays out as a blenderized mix of standard fantasy action and Burtonesque Gothic-alia."

The New York Times' Stephen Holden writes, "Carroll’s deeply subversive, nonsensical embrace of the absurd and truly strange has been mostly painted over" in the sequel due to its "discontinuity between the movie and its source material," adding that perhaps the best way to enjoy the film is to "surrender to its mad digital excess and be whirled around through time and space in a world of grotesque overabundance."

Time's Stephanie Zacharek says the sequel "feels like a movie made by committee, a picture with no rhyme, no reason and no real reason for existing other than to cash in on its predecessor’s popularity." Echoing other critics' takes that the cast doesn't seem very involved in the film, Zacharek adds that they "all look as if they’re yearning to be elsewhere, perhaps suffering from dyspepsia triggered by the picture’s aggressive candy-shop production design."

The Los Angeles Times' Justin Chang writes, "Alice Through the Looking Glass is a movie for anyone who skimmed a passage of Lewis Carroll and thought, 'This is great, but it could use a bit more Terminator.'" Chang also laments the lack of source material in the sequel, instead calling it "a feast of garishly overwrought, effects-encrusted production design."

The Washington Post's Stephanie Merry writes, "There was clearly a lot of thought put into making the movie look spectacular. ... If only as much care were put into the slipshod story," adding that it's hard to care about any of the several characters introduced, as "wondrous visuals only go so far, in a film that turns out to be lethally dull."