8
Mar
2010
Review: Alice in Wonderland
Alice in Wonderland
Sam
Tim Burton's new take on the classic story, Alice in Wonderland, was fated to disappoint. Such a beloved story that has withstood the test of time, Alice is ripe for film adaptation but it seems like no one can nail it down-but there's a reason for this. Alice in Wonderland is incredibly difficult to bring to the screen due to its lack of plot. Burton tries to maneuver he way around this by throwing a "Hook".

In this incarnation, Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is 13 years older and about to be asked to wed the type of awful, disgusting man who only exists in film. Alice sees the recognizable white rabbit and returns to Wonderland (which is now called Underland). Now having returned to the fantasy land, Alice is told that she is destined to slay the Jabberwocky and rid Underland of the evil Queen of Hearts (Burton regular and wife Helena Bonham Carter) and restore the White Queen (wonderfully played by Anne Hathaway) to the throne. She is helped by a recognizable cast of characters most notably the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum (Matt Lucas), the Blue Caterpillar (Alan Rickman), and Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry).

The film is absolutely predictable which is not necessarily that important but it all feels a bit flat, which is particularly disappointing considering the past films Burton has directed. Much of the fault lands on the fact that this was clearly aimed toward young children. There's nothing wrong with having a film aimed toward kids but it's a problem when it does not give them much credit. The film is PG and Burton, who is the king at going dark while still remaining playful, presents a film which appears to be restrained. There looms a wonderful R-rated film here that could not ever be made (at least not by the Walt Disney Company). The idea of Tim Burton directing an adaptation of Alice in Wonderland was so exciting to so many people because he can take things that have been inappropriately lightened up in the past (Batman and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and makes them wonderfully dark. The fact that the plot is so different than the original story is not that much of an issue unless one is married to the idea that this needs to be a straight adaptation.

Unfortunately, the film felt bogged down by CGI and a middling effort for Depp who was predictably cast as the Hatter. Would it hurt Burton to try some more creative casting choices once in a while? One of the more positive moves was getting a rare glimpse at Crispin Glover who played Stayne, a sword wielding lap dog for the Queen. Wasikowska did an adequate job as Alice but there seems to be something inherently wrong with Alice wielding a sword and the Mad Hatter displaying ninja skills and break dancing. Burton is obviously one of the most talented auteurs in the business but Alice in Wonderland felt as if he was trying to please everyone. Too bad that meant Tim Burton fans are left out in the cold.

C+
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