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Movie Review: Alice In Wonderland - All Style, No Wonder

Movie: Alice In Wonderland 2010
Starring: Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway.

There is no doubt that director Tim Burton has his own unique visual style. That style seems like a perfect match for a story like Alice In Wonderland. Unfortunately this movie spends way too much time getting the style right and ignores things like developing an interesting plot or clever characters. It's as if they are trying to see what would happen if Wonderland were devoid of charm and wit. In this story, which is part remake and part sequel Alice is a teenage girl in 1865 who is about to be forced into marriage. She also has been having "dreams" of a magical land called Wonderland. Alice is  a bit awkward and doesn't quite fit in with the rest of society. During a party she again travels to Wonderland through the rabbit hole. Only this time Wonderland is in trouble and needs to be saved from the Red Queen.

In this way Alice is not really exploring Wonderland and meeting new characters instead the movie relies on the audience's previous knowledge from other films and the book. We are made to believe these characters are interesting and clever but the movie lazily avoids having to develop any of this itself. For example when Alice meets the Mad Hatter it is only because of the visuals and our previous knowledge that we know he is mad at all. It's as if by putting Johnny Depp in a funny costume they thought they had created a character. For someone who is "mad" it is odd that he doesn't have one clever line in the whole film.

The plot itself is rather simplistic as well. Alice must save Wonderland from the Red Queen by slaying a Dragon like creature with a special sword. Then she must throw the ring of power into the fiery depths of Mordor (wait...wait...wait that's the wrong movie).  All of this is supposedly destined to happen. The movie never stops to explain what happened to Wonderland or why Alice is so special. It also doesn't seem to be much in the spirit of the original film or book. Mia Wasikowska as Alice does a fine job in her role but is not given much in a script that mostly calls for her to doubt herself and her role as the heroine of Wonderland. Johnny Depp does the best he can but he is not given much of a character at all. Then there is the awful performance of Anne Hathaway as the White Queen. Whether it was supposed to be funny or serious or ironic it really doesn't matter because it did none of those things well. It seems to me like she was in a different movie than everyone else, a very...very bad movie.

The tone of the film is all over the place. Some parts seem rather dark but then it will switch to something more for kids. Maybe part of this was because Disney was paying the bills but in so doing they have made a film that is too dark for children and too boring for adults. Visuals can only do so much and they can't save this movie from itself. Highly unrecommended. You can buy Alice In Wonderland on DVD or Blu-ray at our shop.

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+ comments + 4 comments

June 19, 2010 at 10:56 PM

I think I figured out what the problem was - the original Alice (movie and book) was just her going from character to character having weird encounters, all with an underlying theme about self-discovery. But the new movie had too much plot - trying so hard just to get from point A to point B that they skipped all the actual magicalness. It was following too much formula - gotta learn the prophecy, then fulfill your destiny, then have the battle scene, blah blah. Didn't feel like Alice or the Wonderland. I don't know if that makes any sense...

June 20, 2010 at 4:27 PM

Maybe they felt like everyone already knew the original story so their wouldn't be anything new to show. What they should've done was focus more on making the characters interesting then on the plot. The original barely had a plot at all but it still worked because of the characters.

July 9, 2010 at 2:54 PM

Plus, what was up with the music? Danny Elfman usually does such memorable stuff but here it was so boring - not bad, just boring. I can't even remember what the music was at all. I wonder if some of this lack of magicalness actually came from Disney. Burton and Elfman haven't ever worked for Disney before (I don't think) so I wonder if they weren't being stifled a bit. Even if you don't think Burton is good, you at least always know he'll be unique. But this was a bit meh.

October 18, 2010 at 5:42 AM

with johnny deep & helena bonham carter.its a sure box office..i love the character and costumes of the red queen and all the rest i think..very good movie

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