Following on from Disney’s 2010 Alice in Wonderland, the gang are back together in a colourful, driven film that will doubtless keep the family entertained yet still fails to hit the spot.

Anyone who has read Lewis Carroll’s 1871 novel will realise this is not an adaptation of that book.

Indeed, Tim Burton’s 2010 film plundered so much of it – Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the White Queen, the Jabberwocky, the Bandersnatch – that it would be virtually impossible.

Instead of Carroll’s fantastical backwards looking glass-world, we have a less imaginative, more straightforward quest-based narrative that’s firmly in sequel territory.

This Through the Looking Glass sees Alice (a convincing Mia Wasikowska) go through a magical mirror back to Wonderland where the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) is unwell. To save him, she must go back in time to find out what happened to his family who were presumed killed by the Jabberwocky

Wonderland itself is lacking in wonder.

It’s a good-looking quirky olde-worlde village with odd fantastical elements (walking fish) rather than the full-on discombobulation and hookah-smoking caterpillar world we come to expect.

From what this films shows us, the returning oddballs Alice encountered on her first trip were virtually the only kooky ones in a town of squares.

An absence of mind-warping absurdity and magic aside, Muppets director James Bobin (Burton stays on as producer) crafts a sturdily entertaining movie.

It may lack in Lewis Carroll-style flair but this Through the Looking Glass still looks attractive and there are fleeting moments of imagination. Humpty Dumpty’s little cameo is so brief it is wasted).

But with a dearth of captivating new characters, we largely get the old ones reheated and often with wonder-destroying backstories.

Magic is often lost when you understand how a trick is done and similarly enigmatic characters – such as the Hatter or the Queen of Hearts – lose potency when you find out too much about them.

Looking like a Mick Hucknall-Madonna hybrid, Depp’s Hatter is distinctly less mad this time, even when not moping, which is a pity but is compensated for by Sacha Baron Cohen’s Time.

Director Bobin created both Ali G and Borat with Cohen so it is not be entirely surprising that together they have crafted the latter’s best character and performance in years.

An original invention yet one of the truest Carroll-like characters in the film, he is the embodiment of time itself and a classic family film baddie.

If only there had been more of that kind of magic sprinkled throughout.

Alice Through the Looking Glass is out Friday, May 27.

Surrey Comet:

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