The more condensed version of that rambling paragraph is that Alice Through the Looking Glass adapts...well, Alice Through the Looking Glass, which follows Alice's journey to become a queen and her curious conversations with those she encounters along the way. I could cobble together a more lengthy synopsis, but its appeal lies in the dialogue and the strangeness of it all, and a clinical description of what transpires does it little justice. Some small liberties are made in bringing the story to television, such as the use of a different framing device. It's kitten-centric no longer, instead opening with a rather sleepy mother reading to her young daughter, who convinces her to...well, peer at the title for some small hint. Despite Alice's continual claims that she's seven years and six months exactly, she's portrayed by Kate Beckinsale, who's a good bit older (but certainly easier to look at). Some moments in Carroll's story, such as the Lion and the Unicorn, are dispensed with entirely, but the bulk of the dialogue is presented verbatim. That more than anything is what entranced me. The movie is almost wall-to-wall dialogue, with virtually no stretches without someone saying something. The deft wordplay typically involves a very rational Alice trying to converse with characters ensnared in their own circular, non-sensical logic. It's easier to transcribe than to describe, so below is one sample exchange between Alice and the White Queen:
"Living backwards? I never heard of such a thing."
Video: Alice Through the Looking Glass was produced for television in 1998, so its 1.33:1 aspect ratio comes as little surprise. The image itself is rather unexceptional, appearing rather flat and two-dimensional and boasting lackluster contrast and fine detail. The film's palette is appropriately off-kilter, almost looking as if the colors had been supersaturated and then dialed down a bit, and black levels are fantastic, particularly when Alice finds herself immersed in darkness. It's not a particularly impressive presentation, but its shortcomings are all bearable.
Audio: The Dolby Digital stereo audio, which has been encoded at the usual bitrate of 192Kbps, isn't a far cry from what I'd expect from a television broadcast either. There isn't much activity in the lower frequencies, and some hiss is lurking in the background throughout. So much of the film's appeal lies in its dialogue, and although it does have somewhat of a sibilant quality to it, all of the characters can be clearly understood throughout. Again, it's unremarkable, but I don't have any overwhelming complaints. There are no alternate soundtracks, but this DVD does sport optional Spanish subtitles and English closed captions.
Supplements: The only extras are a full-frame trailer for Alice Through the Looking Glass, alongside a pair of plugs for computer animated adventures of Popeye and the Care Bears. The movie has been divided into eighteen chapters, and the DVD includes a set of static 4x3 menus.
Conclusion: To reuse some of the same adjectives from earlier in the review, Alice Through the Looking Glass is a charming, clever story, and this adaptation is accordingly a charming, clever film. I'm not convinced that very young children would get much out of it, and as the execution is decidedly British, viewers who are turned off by such things should certainly steer clear. Writing strictly as the 26 year old American male that I am, I personally enjoyed Alice Through the Looking Glass quite a bit. I'd be more tempted to recommend this DVD as a rental, but readers with a particular interest in Lewis Carroll's works may want to consider a purchase as well. Recommended.