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Saturday, March 6, 2010

"Alice in Wonderland" is Tim Burton's most visually impressive movie yet.

Alice in Wonderland
review by Brent Sweeting

3 out of 4 stars

Dissatisfied with her life, a girl chases a rabbit in an overcoat down a hole, gets big, gets small, meets a caterpillar smoking who knows what, "Off with her head!", etc... Everyone over 13 knows the story of Alice in Wonderland. Remade over and over, usually centering around a number of celebrity cameos and supporting characters,  but essentialy telling the same story. Fortunately Tim Burton hasn't just rehashed the same story one more time with new faces. Unfortunately the new story isn't terribly interesting, but it is a fun trip to a familiar place with old friends, and hands down Tim Burton's best looking film ever

This of course brings up a question that is likely
being asked repeatedly during this years academy awards when Avatar goes up against films like The Hurt Locker for best picture. Are amazing and groundbreaking visuals and atmosphere, enough to carry a movie with plot holes, or an inferior script? Before the hate mail starts, I liked Avatar. We have never seen anything like it before, and it blew us all away. Does that make up for the fact that several of the characters were one-dimensional? To some extent, yes. How much, remains to be seen. Alice In Wonderland suffers from a similar problem.

The movie is gorgeous. Like Avatar, it is worth seeing for the visuals alone. The Cheshire Cat's look was one of my favorite parts of the movie. The Caterpillar, the Queen, everything looks amazing. When you add the 3-D element to it, it gets that much better, (although the glasses I got seemed to shade the movie slightly and make it darker than it should have been).

Everything centers around a battle between the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) and the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter). According to this story, Alice (Mia Wasikowska) has grown up and remembers her time in Wonderland only as a recurring dream. Scheduled for an arranged marriage she wants little to do with, once again Alice is looking for escape and imagination in her life. Cue the white rabbit. Alice falls in a hole and goes through an all too familiar experience with a table, key, tiny door, and a little potion marked "drink me". Once she gets through the little door, the movie weaves in and out of familiar characters including the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum (Matt Lucas), and as mentioned before, the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter).

Johnny Depp is  the biggest draw and the marketing drive behind this movie, but Helena Bonham Carter is the one that steals every scene she is in. As the Queen with a head  2x the normal size, and a massive inferiority complex, she is easily the funniest and most enjoyable character in the movie. It should also be noted that in this version, the Red Queen is a hybrid of the original story's Red Queen, and the Queen of Hearts. Alan Rickman (Harry Potter), is the voice of the aloof Caterpillar, and also perfectly cast.

The problem that keeps this from being a perfect movie, is that we never really get enough reason to care about any of the characters that Alice is trying to save. Unlike the original story which has no real driving plot and is basically just a slow and leisurely stroll from comedic character to character, this film does have a driving plot, but not enough reason to get invested in it. Sure, we know why the characters want Alice's help to gain freedom from the Red Queen, but none of them are ever vulnerable to make us very invested in her success. As a result, between the laughs and the "woah, that looked cool" moments, the film drags from lack of any real tension.

This isn't the definitive version of Alice in Wonderland, and it isn't the best story Tim Burton has worked on, but it's worth seeing, and it's worth paying the extra few bucks to see in 3-D. Don't wait for this one on video, or you are going to lose most of what makes it great.


  1. I haven'y seen it yet, but I will do to watch it in 3D, because as you said, if I miss it, I'll lose most. The same was about 'Avatar', I'm pretty sure that it won't look so magnificent on DVD as it looked on the cinema screen.
    I like your review very much. Thumbs up!

  2. Thank you for another stellar review.

    Mary Jane