Given the visually intense nature of the undertaking, the idea that a "live action" version of Alice in Wonderland was going to be helmed by former Disney animator Tim Burton, it seemed only fitting. Making the film for Walt Disney and starring bizarre character actor extraordinaire, Johnny Depp, only added to the madness behind what could be an insane family hit that the whole world could fall in love with (like Pirates of the Caribbean and Avatar).
Picking up thirteen years after Alice's original trip through the Looking glass (or down the rabbit hole), Alice (Mia Waikowska) finds Wonderland to be a much more savage place. War torn, dark, and under the megalomaniacal thumb of the bulbous headed Red Queen of Hearts (Helena Bonham Carter) and her vicious Jabberwocky; Wonderland is in dire need of Alice’s help. Reuniting herself with her old friends (such as the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp)), Alice learns that her childhood trip to Wonderland was more than just a fun day trip, it was the beginning of unlocking her true destiny: restore the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) to her rightful throne.
Few works of fiction have stirred the imagination quite like Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. A classical literary tale based upon a girl's fantastic adventures in Wonderland- a nonsensical world where nothing is what it seems and everyone is a bit mad. In his 195 animated features, Walt Disney and his sweatshop of animators came up with the definitive version of Alice, as at the time only the new medium of animation could capture the improbable insanity of the magical whimsical world of Wonderland. But combining Tim Burton’s unique artistic vision, Disney's deep pockets, and the latest in computer graphic technology be enough to breathe credibility in an updated, darker version of the classic children's story?
(Usually, we do the good things first... trying to get things off on a positive note, but in order to do this review right we have to get the bad stuff out of the way first... makes more sense that way...)
- The biggest issue with this movie is the movie itself. There are plenty of good things to say about it and we will in a minute, but it is imperative for us to tell you that there is a major flaw in this movie. It has come to our attention that for however visionary Tim Burton is, when it comes to his hand at making what would be thought of as children's films (like 2005's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) all that creative genius get channeled into the repressed mentalescapes of a troubled inner child.
Much like in Charlie, Burton's Alice feels less like a whimsical childhood fantasy and more like the safe happy place Burton's mind would wander to during those painful childhood days spent in Uncle Touchy’s basement of horrors.
There are other issues with the movie (which we will get to during the verdict portion of this review), but that is by far the biggest.
- A visually interesting film, the prospect of Tim Burton doing Alice paid off big. Re-imagined classic characters, such as the argumentative Tweedles, methed out March Hare, playing card royal guard, and hookah smoking blue caterpillar all come to life in this new adaption(all graced with that gothic look that just screamed Burton). That being said, the whole time we watched the movie in 3-D, we kind of felt as if the 3-D was hardly worth the effort, though we am not going to hold it against the film as it may not have been Tim Burton’s original intention (call it the beginnings of the Avatar inspired 3-D revolution that will be flooding the realm of kiddie and sci-fi movies).
- When thinking Wonderland, two of the most iconic characters in all of fiction come to mind: the murderous Red Queen of hearts and the completely insane Mad Hatter. These characters are larger than life- both in presentation and in complexity. They can only be played sooo... too much and you come off like an overacting ham... too little and you don't sell the role. That’s where Bonham Carter and Depp though live and die... in working with those over the top type characters that walk that line between joke and credible. Breaded in pancake makeup and sporting a laughable orange wig and budging yellowish eyes, Depp's Mad Hatter gleefully loses control in the movie (adding what few silly moments the movie had), but Carter's Red Queen steals the show.
- While a re-imagined telling of the tale, a few of the classic scenes we can all remember with the story come to life for us and really do not disappoint. Elixirs that make you shrink, cakes that make you grow, and tea parties attended only by meth addicted lunatics... oh my...
We really had to think long and hard about this review. See, here is the deal. It’s not a bad movie... but it really isn't a good movie either.
Truthfully there are by far a whole lot of really good things about this movie. Great effects, a few very enjoyable performances, and a classic and beloved tale- this is a sure fire homerun. Yet somehow something went wrong. There is something kind of off about this movie. And not in that usual Tim Burton kind of off way... more like in that afore mentioned "Happy Place" theory we talked about before.
It is also kind of disjointed in the middle, losing track of where it was intending to go and the audience along with it. But a good ending and lots of Red Queen and the Mad Hatter on the screen gets you back.Overall, this movie is a solid three flushes out of five. It’s not horrible, so if you do end up going to see it (or were intending on doing so no matter what) you are not going to be asking for your money back or anything. But the whole movie comes off a lot like a bacon cheeseburger served on two hot fresh gooey Krispi Kremes. Bacon cheeseburgers are good... Krispi Kremes are good... but combining these good things together only makes your tummy hurt.