Directed by: Tim Burton
Premise: A retelling of Lewis Carroll’s fairy tale. Alice (Mia Wasikowska) falls down a rabbit hole and finds herself in a fantasy world ruled by the cruel Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter). She must ally herself with the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) to liberate the land by defeating a creature known as the Jabberwocky.
What Works: The scenes involving the Red Queen are some of the best material in Alice in Wonderland. Helena Bonham Carter’s voice is matched with a mostly computer generated character and the two elements combine to deliver a performance that brings a lot of the humor in the film.
What Doesn’t: Alice in Wonderland is a film struggling to define itself and its look. There is no coherent style applied to the story world or to the subject matter. The visuals of the film vary dramatically between the very realistic looking Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) and the much more cartoonish Red Queen, with other characters and locations falling somewhere in between. The clash in look and style upsets the verisimilitude of the fantasy and makes the film frustrating to watch. There is a serious lack of story or character development in Alice in Wonderland that undermines Alice’s intended journey from timid outsider to assertive warrior. There are no standout moments for Alice to make heroic choices or act in a heroic manner. Actress Mia Wasikowska is miscast in the lead role as she fails to provide a sense of wonder or charisma and even when Alice is faced with mortal danger, her facial expression nearly always looks blank. Alice in Wonderland is presented theatrically in 3-D but the effect is not put to good use. There are no gags to be found and the cinematography fails to capitalize on the depth of field that the 3-D format allows.
Bottom Line: Throughout his career, Tim Burton has struggled in adapting other people’s material and Alice in Wonderland is his latest stumble. There is a lack of vision here that makes the film largely aimless.
Episode: #280 (March 14, 2010)