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Alice in Wonderland

A 2010 Tim Burton film based on Lewis Carroll's book of the same name.

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2.5 stars for this massive disappointment

  • Mar 8, 2010
  • by
For me, Tim Burton has always been more miss than hit. For every excellent effort (ED WOOD, SWEENEY TODD) there seem to be several misfires (SLEEPY HOLLOW, CORPSE BRIDE, BIG FISH.) Unfortunately, ALICE IN WONDERLAND is mostly a miss for me. I looked very much forward to his twisted vision, as the ALICE books were insane mash-ups of verbal nonsense and visual oddness (thanks to the classic illustrations from Teniel.)

Burton's film is full of some stunning visuals, most bearing no resemblance to the illustrations...but I'm okay with that. Burton and his collaborators have re-imagined the look for Wonderland, and that's actually a perfectly valid approach. Plenty of other ALICE films have tried to hew more closely to the look of the original books. But what I didn't like was the story Burton chose to tell.

ALICE IN WONDERLAND and THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS are very difficult to handle cinematically, because they don't really tell a cohesive story. Yes, there is the barest filament of a plot...but it's mostly a string of incidents as Alice meets weird creatures who tell strange and often nonsensical stories. (There's a reason Jefferson Airplane wrote the song "White Rabbit.") So I can understand that Burton and crew wanted to force a real plot for all these familiar characters to enact. However, I think Burton made two mistakes that resulted in one big problem.

Mistake #1 was to set the story later in the life of Alice, so that she's a young lady on the verge of being engaged to a man very much not right for her...instead of a young girl. It makes sense that a young girl could observe the insanity of wonderland and accept it all. Rabbits that talk? Sure, no problem. A giant caterpillar smoking a hookah? Yep. Living playing cards? Fun! But as a 19 year old young lady, who is clearly intelligent...wouldn't you at least expect some raised eyebrows? Granted, the Alice we meet is a curious & imaginative person...but she still seems to have little trouble drinking one potion to shrink and nibbling on something else to grow without giving it a thought.

Mistake #2 was to focus on the politics of Wonderland (actually, in this film, it is called Underland, sadly). We get this story of the evil Red Queen and the virtuous White Queen, and how their animosity has affected the citizens of the land. The poor creatures are suffering under the yolk of the bad queen. It smelled just a little too much like Narnia to me (without the religious overtones).

The net effect of these two mistakes was to sap the film of any real sense of wonder. I ADMIRED much of the visual look: Tweedledum & Tweedledee were suitably creepy/funny. The life-size playing cards / soldiers were well-rendered. Helena Bonham Carter was a visual marvel as the Red Queen. But I wasn't swept away. I didn't feel transported to a new world, I felt invited to a viewing of a really cool set and some nifty CGI. Wonderland didn't feel REAL, and the story didn't feel compelling.

Mia Wasikowska made for a very striking Alice. Even though I disagreed with making her a "grown up," I can't fault the actress for that. She plays her underwritten, one-dimensional role as well as possible. (I'll say right now that one of Burton's biggest flaws, to me, is that he seldom creates well-rounded characters...usually just a collection of traits. Some actors can wrangle those quirks and ticks into a believable person...others cannot.) I enjoyed Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen...again, she was seldom asked to do much, but she tore into her role with relish. A lot of the voice work was very good as well: Alan Rickman is perfect for the Caterpillar and I always like Stephen Fry (Cheshire Cat.)

Less successful were Crispin Glover as Stayne, the Knave of Hearts. If ever a character needed to be unhinged, it's Stayne...and usually Glover can deliver unhinged with the best of them. But he mostly came across as stoic. Anne Hathaway was bland. And most disappointing was the usually reliable Johnny Depp. I'm used to him being the best thing in any Burton movie. He was flat-out brilliant as Ed Wood, full of wonder as Scissorhands and deliciously villainous as Sweeney. Yet as the Mad-Hatter, he's all over the map. Burton has tried to take a minor character from the original books, and stretch him into being the conscious of Wonderland...the IDEA of Depp as the Hatter was great, but reinventing the character just to give your star more to do was a mistake. He's amusing to look at for a few minutes...but his accent jumps around (and worse, he's often unintelligible in his mumblings) and he appears to have a rather odd fixation on Alice. Is he "in love" with the lovely young woman he sees now, or is he "in love" with his memory of the 10 year old girl he once met...which is highly creepy, but seems to be the case.

ALICE IN WONDERLAND is a huge disappointment. Burton is an awkward storyteller but a visual genius. This time, however, even those skills are found wanting.

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More Alice in Wonderland (2010 movi... reviews
review by . May 23, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
*1/2 out of ****    "Alice in Wonderland" is quite possibly the most boring film Tim Burton has ever made. It is so boring - and tedious, and maddening, and flat - that it comes off as an absolute surprise that such a brilliant and visionary filmmaker would have made it. But did Burton really make it? That's what I'm wondering by the time it's over, because this is just a mess. And not a fun mess either. It's one of those good-looking, overly indulgent and just-so-goddamn-stupid …
review by . December 12, 2010
You'd think that Tim Burton and Alice in Wonderland would be a perfect combination right? I actually did like most of what Tim Burton did with the movie, seeing as I was never terribly attached to the Disney one in my childhood, but I can definitely see why fans of the original film may be disappointed.      First of all, I will start with the obvious. The visuals are really pretty and superfun to look at, especially in 3D. I have come to expect this from Tim's movies, …
review by . March 06, 2010
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                     There have been many adaptations and interpretations in the silver screen of the classic fairy tale. Not surprising since the story does occur in a fantastical world full of myth, fantasy and bizarre characters that just provokes the imagination. Quirky director Tim Burton now attempts to interpret the tale in this 2010 release of “ALICE IN WONDERLAND”; only this time, …
review by . March 06, 2010
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review by . March 06, 2010
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review by . July 08, 2010
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      ALICE IN WONDERLAND   I have to say that I am indeed a fan of Lewis Carroll the person who wrote the stories on which this film was based [yes I said stories as in multiple, it’s true look it up], and am a huge fan of the animated film that we all know and love, CLASSIC. Add in that I am a Tim Burton fan, a Johnny Depp fan [my girl loves him], and a huge Helena Bonham Carter fan [I love her]. So naturally we all got together to see this film opening night …
review by . July 19, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
You know, I don't pay much attention to professional movie reviews so when I read on Twitter that the critics trashed Alice in Wonderland, I was a little surprised. Especially since my 4 year old and I watched it 4 times in a row! Yep, you read that right.   Of course, I love Johnny Depp in everything that he does- he's a chameleon actor and he does not disappoint as the Mad Hatter in this Tim Burton adaptation.  Likewise, Helena Bonham Carter was perfection as …
review by . May 17, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Typical Burton
There's a lot of criticism focusing around Tim Burton at the moment and it's spiked at the release of this film. The major criticisms directed at Burton focus on his lack of any original ideas and the re-casting of the same actors in every film he makes. Johnny Depp is a great actor; I don't think anybody would deny this, but to cast him in almost every movie made by Burton is just insane and has become repetitive to the point it's becoming damaging to Depp's career. He seems now like an actor that …
review by . March 30, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
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Once upon time in England there lived a young girl named Alice, Alice Kingsley  now Alice wasn't  like most girls her age  she was a little impetuous and curious. Therefore, one day while roaming around the woods young Alice wanders off into the woods and there she sees a small white rabbit in a waistcoat with a pocket watch, Alice, curious about the strange creature follows him up the hill to an old tree where the rabbit mysteriously vanishes. Alice looks around  for him and …
review by . June 07, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Alright, so I am a HUGE Johnny Depp fan. I loved his collaboration with Burton in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, so I was very excited for Alice in Wonderland. I had heard many things in passing about this movie, so I wasn't expecting it to be a carbon copy of the Disney film. I just watched it last night and I wasn't thrilled.      I thought the cinematography was excellent and I enjoyed the change of storyline. I figured out the "twist" or "new take" …
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About this movie


Alice in Wonderland is a 2010 Tim Burton film staring Mia Wasikowska as Alice, Helena Bonham Carter as The Red Queen, Alan Rickman as the Caterpiller, Anne Hathaway as the White Queen and Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter.  It is slated for a March 5th 2010 release.

Tim Burton was born to bringAlice in Wonderlandto the big screen. Ironically, his version of the Victorian text plays more likeThe Wizard of Ozthan a Lewis Carroll adaptation. On the day of her engagement party, the 19-year-old Alice (a nicely understated Mia Wasikowska) is lead by a white-gloved rabbit to an alternate reality that looks strangely familiar--she's been dreaming about it since she was 6 years old. Stranded in a hall of doors, she sips from a potion that makes her shrink and nibbles on a cake that makes her grow. Once she gets the balance right, she walks through the door that leads her to Tweedledum and Tweedledee (Matt Lucas), the Dormouse (Barbara Windsor), the Blue Caterpillar (Alan Rickman), and the Cheshire Cat (a delightful Stephen Fry), who inform her that only she can free them from the wrath of the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter channeling Bette Davis) by slaying the Jabberwocky. To pull off the feat, she teams up with the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp in glam-rock garb), rebel bloodhound Bayard (Timothy Spall), and Red's sweet sister, the White Queen (Anne Hathaway in goth-rock makeup). While Red welcomes Alice with open arms, she plans an execution for the hat-maker when he ...
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Director: Tim Burton
Genre: Action, Adventure
Release Date: March 5, 2010
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
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