Thursday, March 04, 2010

Not So Wonderful

Early on in Alice in Wonderland, Alice's father tells some colleagues, "Nothing is impossible if you believe it to be possible." After seeing this movie, I can now say I believe it's possible for a Tim Burton movie to be pretty awful.

Less an adaptation of the Lewis Carroll novels than a story based on the characters in them, Alice picks up the action 13 years after Alice has returned home. Now a 19-year-old headstrong young woman, Alice follows the White Rabbit down a hole and thinks nothing of it; she believes her earlier trip to Wonderland was just a dream. Thinking she's back in a dream, she goes through the motions, quickly reacquainting herself with the Cheshire Cat, Door Mouse, and yes, the Mad Hatter (played by Johnny Depp). Since she's been gone, Wonderland (or "Underland," as it's called here) has turned into a bleak wasteland, and the Red Queen (a big-headed Helena Bonham Carter) is in charge. Alice's return means there's a chance that things can be set right and all can be wonderful again. If only Alice herself seemed a bit more interested in helping out.

It's hard to decide what I liked least about this Alice: the gloomy, creepy, almost gothic production design (even Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, weird though it was, had a gooey, candy center and a sense of whimsy); Mia Wasikowska's performance as Alice (she's got about as much charisma as a deck of cards); the silly (and not in a good way) script; or the fact that the 3D "effects" are absolutely unnecessary. In addition, Depp's one-note performance left me lukewarm, Anne Hathaway (as the White Queen) seems miscast, and, well, did I mention how bad Wasikowska is? Perhaps the only good thing about this movie is the fact that it moves rather quickly and is less than two hours long. Otherwise, Burton's got himself a real disappointment here. Alice is not fun, it's not cute, and it's not one for the kids. Really, it's maddening. I'm giving the movie a C–.



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