"Alice in Wonderland" Movie Review (2010)

3/12/2010 Posted by Admin

Movie Review

“Alice in Wonderland”

Directed by Tim Burton, written by Linda Woolverton, 108 minutes, rated PG.

By Christopher Smith

The new Tim Burton movie, “Alice: Struck Down by Banality,” (sorry) “Alice: What a God Awful Bore Your Movie Is” (sorry, let’s try this again), “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore”--(okay, fine)--“Alice in Wonderland,” is presented in 3-D, which is ironic because the movie itself lacks dimension.

Linda Woolverton based the script from Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking-Glass,” and she’s updated the story to feature Alice not as a child caught in another world, but as a 19-year-old young woman (Mia Masikowska) seeking to escape the possible ruins of a bad marriage to a toothy young fellow suffering from irritable bowel syndrome.

And that’s only one of the ways the story has been updated. Since Alice is being pressured into a marriage she wants no part of, this curious girl with the pale skin and the concealed pluck takes flight from the situation when a rabbit (voice of Michael Sheen) catches her eye. She chases after it and falls down a rabbit hole into another world called Underworld.

But is this Alice that Alice? Many want to know, including Dormouse (Barbara Windsor), March Hare (Paul Whitehouse), Tall Flower Faces (Imelda Staunton), Absolem the Caterpillar (Alan Rckman), and Tweedledee and Tweedledum (Matt Lucas). All have their doubts that she is that she save for the one person who knows that this is the Alice of their memories. That person is Mad Hatter (“It’s you! It’s absolutely Alice--I’d know him anywhere”), who is played by Johnny Depp in a performance he obviously was game to play, so it’s a shame that the script didn’t play back.

The movie is colorful and colorless, with Burton tossing so much at the screen as he parades through the theme park that is 3-D--which does nothing to enhance the movie--that this usually terrific director misses his mark by forgetting to tell the sort of unforgettable story audiences have come to expect from him. There is mold all over this “Alice,” and while some of it features the brightest of greens, a lot of it is predictably grim, but not in the way that Burton fans have come to savor.

About the story. Since the last time we saw Alice, the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter in the movie’s only memorable performance) is taking on her sister, the White Queen (Anne Hathaway, miscast), in a battle royale that is offing its share of heads as the Red Queen presses on with her quest for power. With her bobble head wrapped in ropes of red hair, she goes for it, which causes all sorts of problems, all of which Alice finds herself in the middle of, with the crazed Mad Hatter among others as her guide.

Of course, the whole idea of Alice’s presumed hallucination is for her to go to war with her own psyche and come away a stronger person (Dorothy, anyone?), one who, for instance, could walk away from an arranged marriage to a farting old lord. Whether she finds that fortitude, we’ll leave for you, but getting there is a struggle, so much so that it literally involves a battle against the Red Queen’s army (Joan of Arc, anyone?). Unfortunately, what we’re left with is a predictable coming-of-age tale.

While just that might be all the rage in popular culture--one only has to turn to the “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” movies to find the exclamation points--it doesn’t quite work here. The emotional arc competes with the film’s lack of structure, something Carroll himself faced in his own writing. How he overcame it was with wit, satire and imagination, and so while on paper you’d think that his mind would be perfect for Burton to tap, it oddly isn’t. Something went missing in the translation.

Grade: C-

View our advanced look at "Alice in Wonderland" below.

View the trailer for "Alice in Wonderland" below. What are your thoughts?

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  1. Michaell#%& said...

    Saw Alice opening weekend. Was a great movie. We did not get to see it in 3D. I thought Johnny Depp was great as the Madd Hatter. While not much in the movie the Chesire Cat was very good. Liked the way they generated him into the movie.

  2. Edward29 said...

    I tried to see this on opening weekend in 3D, but it was sold out.
    After reading this review I don't know if I want to see it.
    I may check it out at the matinee showing price for the amusement of the special effects and 3D.

  3. Jess said...

    For a Tim Burton film i didn't feel it was dark and twisty enough. I guess that's what happens with disney. Also I didn't like the way they tried to freshen up the "Alice" story. It was like what they did with Peter Pan version with Robin Williams, "Hook." They need some new ideas.

  4. Andrew Hosley said...

    I didn't find it to be the masterpiece I'd hoped for. It's good. It's very good -- and there are flashes of greatness within it.

  5. drbuehler said...

    Carroll's book is curious and fun, but Burton's movie is grim and dull. What happened? Tedious.

  6. Joss said...

    I was really disappointed. The story was disjointed, yet predictable, and and left me feeling apathetic for most of the viewing. I found the dialogue to be mostly bad as well, a contrast of being bland and occasionally nonsensical. I enjoyed Cheshire cat but much of the rest of the set did nothing for me. The concept of Alice returning to wonderland had potential but I thought it could have been explored in a better way. Yeah, I know it is a kids movie but even so...! I usually hate to rain on some ones artistic vision so much but I expected something good with this film, and for me at least, it did not deliver.

  7. Music and Movie Treasures By Brenda said...

    I enjoyed this movie. It was fun, if not great. The visuals were spectacular and I particularly enjoyed the Red Queen and the Mad Hatter.

  8. Tomomi said...

    Love your review. You said it all.

  9. Tom Graczkowski said...

    I felt very dissapointed with this one, the visuals were stunning but the movie itself was rather boring and the dialogue was really odd at places. Too bad as I really admire Burton for his previous works.


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