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|Alice in Wonderland
dir Tim Burton
scr Linda Woolverton
prd Tim Burton, Joe Roth, Richard D Zanuck, Jennifer Todd, Suzanne Todd
with Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover, Matt Lucas, Lindsay Duncan, Frances de la Tour
voices Stephen Fry, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Michael Sheen, Barbara Windsor, Paul Whitehouse, Christopher Lee, Imelda Staunton
release UK/US 5.Mar.10
10/UK Disney 1h48
Welcome to Underland: Wasikowska
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
The visual inventiveness in this film is so impressive that it almost makes up for the ill-conceived script, which tries to turn Lewis Carroll's classic tales into a Lord of the Rings-sized post-apocalyptic adventure epic.
It's been 13 years since Alice (Wasikowska) visited Wonderland, although she now believes it was all a dream. When she falls down that rabbit hole again, she doesn't remember anyone, but they remember her, and soon she's involved in a series of portentous events involving the nasty Red Queen (Bonham Carter), her nice sister, the White Queen (Hathaway), and a mythical dragon called Jabberwocky (Lee). She's helped through this by the Hatter (Depp), a smiling cat (Fry), a blue caterpillar (Rickman), two chubby twins (Lucas) and a white rabbit (Sheen), among others.
The film follows on from the events of both Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, filling each scene with references to the books in both the visual design and the dialog, which is witty and snappy and often wonderfully absurd. The gifted actors play each scene with a bundle of tics and telling details that make the characters almost overpoweringly vivid. And this is no mean feat since several are digitally enhanced: Depp's enlarged eyes, Bonham Carter's huge head, Glover's elongated frame, Lucas' roundness.
But these visual touches actually make the characters more interesting, especially when combined with the clever performances. Because there's otherwise very little to hold our interest. The main problem is that Alice actually takes almost no journey at all; she's just as imaginative and strong-willed at the start as at the end, after she supposedly rediscovers herself. And the plot is annoyingly over-structured, with big action at specific intervals and a calculated balance of emotion and comic relief. In other words, it feels generated by studio software rather than the free-form genius of Lewis Carroll.
This might not be a problem for youngsters unfamiliar with the source material. They'll enjoy the film's stunning imagery (the 3D is almost irrelevant). But there's no tension in the plot; despite all of the life-threatening situations, we never fear for Alice's safety. And as a result, the movie almost feels dull. Fortunately Burton continually wakes us up with something visually spectacular, which just about makes it worth seeing.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S
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© 2010 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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