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Review: Disney’s ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’ – What parents should know

I’m not really sure why Disney decided to make a sequel to 2010’s live-action “Alice in Wonderland” starring Johnny Depp other than it hopes to cash in on the success of its predecessor. Either way, Disney’s “Alice Through the Looking Glass” arrives in theaters today, and families looking for a movie outing will no doubt be headed to theaters to see it.

This time Alice (played by Mia Wasikowska) returns home from her adventures as a sea captain, only to find her father’s company now belongs to someone else, who doesn’t believe women are capable of being more than wives, mothers and desk clerks. It just so happens she discovers a magic mirror that leads her back to Underland, where she learns that her truest friend, the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), is wasting away due to the remembered grief of losing his family. Her other friends, including the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), beg her to travel back in time to save the Hatter’s family and cure him. Unfortunately, to do so, she must steal a time-traveling device from Time (Sacha Baron Cohen), which threatens to destroy Underland.

The sequel isn’t directed by Tim Burton, although he does produce it, and you can see a difference. Colors and special effects are more vibrant and less dark, and in my opinion, the sequel is more kid-friendly than the original. Everything seems tamer this time around. For example, there are no hookah-smoking caterpillars to worry about having to explain and the imagery of frightening beasts is kept to one or two briefs scenes.

Story-wise, “Alice Through the Looking Glass” is a lot of the same as the first movie, with an adult Alice journeying through one fantastic scene after another. This time, however, there is a strong theme of family, friendship and forgiveness. Much of the subplot involves the history of the sisters, the White Queen and the Queen of Hearts (Helena Bonham Carter), and what caused the Queen of Hearts to become a villain.

Time is a fun and welcome addition to the strange cast of characters, and Cohen plays him without inserting any risky innuendo (after all, this is the guy who played Borat, remember?). Aside from some mild name-calling — “you dim-witted girl” — I don’t remember any profanity, and there’s only some mild flirting between two characters. There are some intense scenes that might scare young and sensitive children, but none are as bad as those depicted in the original film.

The bottom line: If your kids enjoyed 2010’s “Alice in Wonderland,” they should have no problems watching this one. Since the world-building remains solid and colorful, they’ll probably enjoy it, too.

“Alice Through the Looking Glass” is rated PG for fantasy action, scenes of peril and some language. It is now playing in theaters.