"Alice" in Burton-land

March 8, 2010, 8:45 a.m. | By Ava Wallace | 10 years, 10 months ago

A complex plot makes a colorful trip down the rabbit hole

Tim Burton, the director/ producer most known for his twisted stop-motion animation and his quirky adaptations of childhood favorites, certainly felt the pressure upon the release of his latest movie, "Alice in Wonderland." The cast was a wonderful collection of well-rounded movie stars, the plot was fantastic and zany – right up Burton's alley – and visually, James Cameron had just created a new Hollywood standard. The film had to deliver, and in order to take on a project like that, Burton had to be as mad as the Hatter himself.

For this film Burton chose to combine elements of Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland" as well as "Alice Through the Looking Glass," and the director might have bitten off more than he can chew. We join the story as quirky, 19 year old Alice (played by Australian actress Mia Wasikowska in her blockbuster debut) is pondering a marriage proposal. In her moment of indecisiveness, she runs away into a garden and down the rabbit hole she goes. Though this is Alice's second time in Wonderland, she doesn't remember her visit as a little girl and is convinced she is trapped in a bad dream. A magical journey ensues as Alice reunites with her forgotten friends, including Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, and realizes that she must save Wonderland from the wrath of the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter).

The complex plot was Burton's foil. Burton's tale required excessive back-story that he didn't have time to give, and as a result the movie was somewhat difficult to follow. To some extent, the film was disjointed and at times ridiculous, oscillating between somber and light-hearted too quickly. In terms of a dramatic masterpiece, "Alice in Wonderland" disappoints, as the plot lacked the depth that Burton's more serious films have achieved. But as a children's story the movie was terrific, incorporating silly characters, fantastic beasts and the glory of good over evil in less than two hours.

The film was more of a showcase for amazing special effects and makeup than anything else. For all things visual, the film is quite dazzling. Burton's "Wonderland" is easily as intricate and creative as Cameron's world from "Avatar", and in 3D, each detailed creature and plant is disturbingly real. Though "Wonderland" is sensational, Burton dulls brilliant colors in order to give the film a gloomier feeling. It works, conveying both the beauty of Wonderland and the obviously overpowering reign of the Red Queen.

Additionally, the makeup artistry is supremely alluring; the bizarrely painted faces of the Mad Hatter and the Red Queen are especially impressive. The costumes are also breathtaking, particularly Alice's array of dresses, which are appropriately off-kilter.

Equally as eccentric as the costumes are the film's personalities, and it is a testament to the talented cast that the actors managed to disappear into their roles without being swallowed by their characters. Depp shined as the Mad Hatter without being predictable, Bonham Carter was humorously mean and Wasikowska played the delicate and relatable, yet independent, Alice with the perfect amount of spunk. Alan Rickman lent his distinctly sonorous voice to the film as the Blue Caterpillar and Stephen Fry voiced the Cheshire cat, whose disappearing acts were delightful in 3D.

Apart from Anne Hathaway, who as the White Queen was unable to grasp her character and instead ended up as a bad caricature, the performances were effortless and gently absorbs the audience into the compelling world of Wonderland. Despite some confusing segments, "Alice in Wonderland" was nonetheless spectacular to behold. Children are sure to relish the whimsical re-telling and older audiences will be pleased with the production if they do not take the movie too seriously. Mad as he is, Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" is certainly a marvelous concoction.

Alice in Wonderland (108 minutes) is rated PG for fantasy action/violence involving scary images and situations, and for a smoking caterpillar. Now playing in theaters everywhere. 3D available only in select theaters.

Tags: Review

Ava Wallace. More »

Show comments


No comments.

Please ensure that all comments are mature and responsible; they will go through moderation.