Saturday, March 06, 2010

Alice in Wonderland (**1/2)

Alice in Wonderland. 109 mins. PG. Directed by Tim Burton. Written by Linda Woolverton. Starring Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Crispin Glover, Anne Hathaway, and Mia Wasikowska.

Tim Burton never risks being boring as a filmmaker, and his take on Alice in Wonderland is no exception. Surprisingly though, this Alice is anything but wondrous. For all the creative tinkering and imagination that went into its production design, the end result is a rather drab affair. Like Burton's previous updating of a classic children's tale, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, Alice in Wonderland is a cold and calculating slice of whimsy that makes you long for prior versions. At least Burton's Alice tries to tell a different story though. Here, Alice is a free-willed 19 year-old (newcomer Mia Wasikowska - a perfect fit for the role) who on the eve of an arranged marriage goes back to Wonderland (or Underland as it's called here - not sure what that's about) having no memory of her earlier visit there, in order to slay the Jabberwock and free the land from the tyrannical rule of the Queen of Hearts (an appropriately over-the-top Helena Bonham Carter). She encounters the regular denizens along the way: the White Rabbit, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, and the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), among others. Screenwriter Linda Woolverton tries to put a new spin on the classic tale, but it never really gels and ultimately comes off as a sub-par Chronicles of Narnia knock-off by the time the big battle hits near the end. Depp's Mad Hatter is shoehorned into a bunch of scenes unnecessarily, and he's gone to the well so often with his "eccentric" performances that I'm starting to take it for granted. His performance is all make-up and mannerisms. It's not funny or charming or even interesting at this point. Depp needs to do something he can sink his teeth into, and fast. Captain Jack Sparrow may have made him a mint, but it's also spoiled him. I much prefer when Burton and Depp are tackling darker subject matter - Sweeney Todd was brilliant (and so was Depp in it). The 3D in Alice is perfunctory and nothing special. In fact, I much preferred the movie's bookend scenes, set in the real world. At least that seemed like something new for Burton. Alice in Wonderland is not a terrible movie, just an unexceptional one.

- John


At 9:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't even need to read your review of this movie because you hit it with 2 1/2 stars. It is an average movie. I thought that it was a nice movie. That as a movie is was fine and the 3d was nice at times but overall I think that it was just kind of bland. And I think that the marketing was a little off for it because most people I have tlaked to thought that it was going to be a remake and didn't realize that it was going to be taking place years after the original Alice picture (story).


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