Find Me At Screen Rant

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Alice in Wonderland (**1/2)


There's too much intriguing imagery From The Imagination of Tim Burton to dismiss Alice in Wonderland entirely, but aside from Burton's patented brand of eye candy, the movie is a dreary kind of drag. Alice in Wonderland returns an older Alice (Mia Wasikowska) down the familiar rabbit hole where she lands in Tim Burtonland. In circumstances that run too close to Hook for comfort, she neither remembers her previous adventures in Wonderland, nor do most of its denizens seem sure it's even her. They all seem to remember Alice as a bright, precocious little girl, and this Alice is a scowly, sullen stick in the mud. (Burton provides flashbacks of the younger Alice's adventures in Wonderland and those looked so cheerful and fun, I'd rather have watched that movie.)  Lots of famous faces pop up: Anne Hathaway flitting about as the White Queen, Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen (who must have been paid by the number of times she screeched "Off with his head!" It only got more irritating each time), Crispin Glover as the Red Queen's consort, and of course, Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, doing his Johnny Deppiest to act mad. Some of the line readings were incomprehensible; I have no idea what Depp was saying half the time, and that goes for almost everyone in Wonderland. Stephen Fry and Alan Rickman lend their famous voices to the Cheshire Cat and the Blue Caterpillar, respectively, but the attempts by the CGI creatures to provide slapstick comedy are too frenzied and odd to be funny. Paying occasional lip service to the famous events in the book (Alice drinking the potion that makes her shrink, a visit to the Mad Hatter's tea party, etc.), Alice in Wonderland builds to the last thing I was expecting: another one of those "two armies meet in battle" action finales.  Is there something in the Director's Guild where directors must all have a Lord of the Rings-style CGI battle in the third act of their movies? Everything hinges on Alice, in battle armor, turning action heroine against the Jabberwocky, as foretold by a scroll that looks just like Harry Potter's Marauder's Map. In the end, Alice gains her "muchness" and becomes her own woman, so that was good. The grrrowly vocals of Avril Lavigne over the closing credits suited Burton and Wasikowska's surly Alice.