Written by: Kit Bowen, Special to CC2K
The off-kilter Tim Burton version of Alice in Wonderland might frightened younger children, confuse older ones – and bore the adults.
We're definitely not in Disneyland anymore. Burton has re-imagined Lewis Carroll's timeless classic as only his kooky mind can. Much like all his films, “Alice” takes on a particularly skewed, slightly scary perspective, all at once visually dazzling and inventive. Alice (Mia Wasikowska), now 19, remembers her original Wonderland experience only as a dream, but when faced with the reality of having to accept a marriage proposal, she once again sees the rabbit in a waistcoat and follows him down the hole. She still thinks it's a dream – until the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), the Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry), the Blue Caterpillar (Alan Rickman), the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) and the others convince her it's oh-so-real. She's back because she's the only one who can end the Red Queen's (Helena Bonham Carter) reign of terror.
Always unique, Depp channels another kind of weird, foppish Brit, who adopts a decidedly edgier Scottish brogue when the Hatter gets angry – and boy, he works those crazy eyes. Wasikowska, best known for her role in HBO's In Treatment, is spunky and valiant as Alice. But Bonham Carter simply steals the show as the insecure Red Queen, big head and all. She's hilarious, screaming for a warm pig for her feet and to be entertained by her “fat boys” Tweedledee and Tweedledum (Matt Lucas). For once, she actually outshines Depp, her real-life companion's other favorite person (I'm talking about Burton).
Naturally, I took my 10-year-old daughter to the movie with me, having read the book to her when she was little and watched the Disney adaptation together, so both us were full of high expectations. I truly believed Burton was basically born to make an Alice in Wonderland. Yet as technically stunning and well-acted as Alice is, the director unfortunately falls short in my assessment. The script takes mostly from Carroll's Alice sequel “Through the Looking-Glass,” along with the poem Jabberwocky, and while Burton has all the moving parts in order (little ones will definitely hide their eyes from the Bandersnatch), the pacing drags and misses some of the wonderment and magic of the Carroll's vision. My daughter started fidgeting, and I grew restless, as the film droned on in the middle, only to pick up during the climactic final battle. A Very Merry Un-Birthday song would have been nice addition, I'm just saying.
It's just not the Alice in Wonderland I was hoping for from someone like Tim Burton.
Kit Bowen is an entertainment journalist and movie critic. She was formerly the Managing Editor for Hollywood.com and currently blogs for her site TheMovieKit.com.