Monday, February 7, 2011

Alice in Wonderland (2010)


Director: Tim Burton
Starring: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Mia Wasikowska

Based on the Lewis Carroll's book, and following many previous incarnations, Tim Burton's version of Alice in Wonderland follows the adventures of Alice, who returns to the "underland" to revisit her friends, including the Mad Hatter, among others, and fulfill her destiny: to end the reign of the Red Queen.

I apparently only had a peripheral knowledge of the Alice in Wonderland story because I had no idea it was so surreal or that Alice was such a badass, what with the armor and the jabberwocky and all. This is a perfect story for Tim Burton to add his cartoonish and surrealistic touches to, but as a whole, it wasn't as fun or exciting for me as a lot of his other films.

As the Mad Hatter, Johnny Depp once again sinks his teeth into another eccentric role and does a good job of it, but there just seemed to be something missing. Perhaps when we're confronted with a cadre of odd characters it's difficult to shine, as opposed to being the head wackjob in Charlie & the Chocolate Factory. That's not to say I didn't enjoy his performance; I did...ish. I also was oddly fascinated by the bizarre Red Queen (Bonham Carter) and was pleased as punch to see the grossly underused Crispin Glover as her henchman. In fact, the most disturbing character, in my opinion, was the White Queen, played by Anne Hathaway. Even though I knew she was supposed to be comically ethereal I still found her really bizarre, and not in a good way. Alice (Wasikowska) was just kind of there; not dynamic or even particularly charming or clever.

Alice in Wonderland is full of signature Tim Burton touches: surreal and angular landscapes, bizarre characters, bright colors and a fun (if not derivative) Danny Elfman score. But it just felt kind of hollow in the end, and as a whole, fell flat for me. Personally, I'd like to see Burton get back to making films that aren't primarily geared toward children (though I suppose it can be argued that this film and Charlie & the Chocolate Factory could be for children and adults) because it was films like Ed Wood and Big Fish that really cemented him as a brilliant filmmaker. Even an original "adult fairytale" like Edward Scissorhands had a lot more depth and, in my opinion, were a lot more entertaining than his recent remakes, which just kind of whimper to the finish line.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars

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