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  Alice in Wonderland

Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway

Directed by: Tim Burton

Produced by: Tim Burton, Joe Roth, Jennifer & Suzanne Todd, Richard D. Zanuck

Written by: Linda Woolverton

Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures

     Tim Burton films have always been weird—and sometimes annoyingly so—but never have the director’s trademark oddities been as boring and mechanical as they are in Alice in Wonderland. His take on the Lewis Carroll fairy-tale is as provocative-in-concept-only as a tube of black lipstick from Hot Topic. Walt Disney is putting out the movie and, while it’s darker than the studio’s usual release, it’s just as mass-market in terms of its lack of genuine substance.

     The new story-bent in Burton’s Alice is fine on its face, but goes nowhere. This time around, Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is a 19-year-old who has been to Wonderland many times before. At her engagement party, in which she’s about to be forced to marry a twit she doesn’t like, she’s lured down the infamous rabbit-hole by the White Rabbit (Michael Sheen). Once in Wonderland, she meets the usual cast of characters: the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), Tweedledee and Tweedledum (Matt Lucas), the Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry), et cetera. Alice is, as the story goes, expected to save Wonderland from the wrath of the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) and restore the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) to power in a duel with the Jabberwocky (Christopher Lee).

     While visuals are the clear focus of this Alice and Wonderland, the most immediately noticeable feature is the acting. Why? Despite the distinguished cast, the performances are wooden across the board. In the title role, Mia Wasikowska disappoints in her utter blankness, especially when one considers how strongly she burst onto the scene last year in the indie That Evening Sun.  As the Mad Hatter, selling-point Johnny Depp comes off as more incoherent than he does zany. Depp does a lot of mumbling and not much else. (That is, unless you count the excruciating dance number he delivers at the end of the film.) The extensive voice-cast for the CGI creatures is equally unremarkable. If there’s one standout, it’s Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen, perhaps because she was able to better understand how to turn (her husband) Burton’s general weirdness into a positive rather than an outright bore. But the performances on the whole match the updated story in terms of its emptiness.

     As far as the visuals are concerned, they appear expensive but not real pleasing, which is surprising given they’re intended to be the main attraction of the film. For the entire first act, everything looks extremely, uninterestingly dull. Burton paints the picture using washed-out hues to highlight the idea that the outskirts of Wonderland (where our heroes lie) have been shunned by the Red Queen, whose Kingdom is by contrast vibrant. But after ten minutes of staring at the admittedly artistic, but joyless images, the viewer is tempted to get up and scream “I get it! But I came for the brand-new, CGI-filled Alice in Wonderland—show me some color!” Brightness finally fills the frame when we meet the Red Queen, but these scenes are too little, too late. In fact, it’s befuddling to this 2D-viewer that the movie is being released in 3-D; given how dark the majority of what I saw was, I can’t even imagine what it would be like through the dim lenses of those damn glasses!

     Speaking of the 3D, it only serves as further proof that Alice in Wonderland is a commercial cash-grab of the most uninspired kind. And if it wasn’t apparent enough already, that sad fact will cross every thinking viewer’s mind when the movie reaches its obligatorily action-filled climax. As Alice gears up to battle the Jabberwocky, the experience feels identical to the recent Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian in that it features a young protagonist traveling to a ravaged fantasyland to restore peace and happiness in downright loud fashion. In fact, expensive and odd as it is, Alice in Wonderland feels like a lot of other movies. There isn’t a reason to see it.


-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 3.11.2010


Alice in Wonderland is rated PG and runs 108 minutes.

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