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Alice in Wonderland Review


RATING:
(2 STARS)

With Tim Burton, one always expects something out of the ordinary. For me, weird doesn’t necessarily equate good. I haven’t nearly seen all of his work, but I have yet to be really impressed with what he has to offer as a director. What purpose does his style serve? Over the course of films like “Edward Scissorhands,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” and “Sweeney Todd,” I havent’ figured out the answer to this question. After his latest film, “Alice in Wonderland,” I find myself once again scratching my head. Burton’s strange touch adds very little to the pedestrian story, and although it looks beautiful and is occasionally fun, there’s not a ton to love about this film.

Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is a whimsical 20-year-old girl in London. While her friends and sister are thinking about marrying lords, she dreams about flying and a land with white rabbits in topcoats. While at a party for her engagement, she spots one of these rabbits from her dreams and follows him. Then, she falls down a hold and enters a world that looks awfully like the one from her dreams.

This place is filled with strange creatures. Besides the rabbit, there’s a mouse who thinks she’s a fierce warrior, a wise blue caterpillar, two fat twin boys, a vanishing cat with a big smile on his face, as well as talking varieties of nearly every animal. There are also people in this world. The Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) rules the land with her fire-breathing creature, the Jabberwocky, instilling fear in every citizen of Wonderland and ensure the Red Queen’s rule until someone can destroy the creature. That someone comes in the person of Alice who, despite her reluctance to destroy anything, is destined to be the Champion for the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), the Red Queen’s benevolent sister. Alice is also assisted by the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), who vows not to do his signature dance again until the White Queen has the crown back on her head.

The biggest attraction in “Alice in Wonderland” for most people (you know, besides those annoying Johnny Depp fanatics) is the use of 3D. This is the first major motion picture to utilize the technology since “Avatar” wowed the world. I saw “Alice in Wonderland” in 3D, but I kind of wish I didn’t. It just wasn’t worth the extra five dollars (yes, you read right, five dollars; my mouth nearly dropped when I heard that). Sure, it looks nice, but it doesn’t enhance the film at all. The “ooh and ahh” factor is there, but what was the point of it other than to show off?

The story itself is pretty standard adventure fare. It reminded me a lot of the Narnia films with the whole reluctant hero thing and the cute talking creatures depending on her (although I’m not sure how Depp’s Mad Hatter would fit into the whole Narnia scene). I think on the whole I preferred this film (the Narnia films play it too safe for me), but I think the comparison is apt.

The acting is alright. Mia Wasikowska is surprisingly good as Alice considering she’s such a newcomer. She’s got the requisite spunk needed to make Alice mroe than just a reluctant hero. I’m curious to see where this takes her becaue I think she’s got some potential. Johnny Depp is clearly the big star. He does his usual weirdo shtick. He does this better than most, but it’s not the kind of thing that makes for great acting. Ask most people who their favorite actor is, and I think the most frequent response you’ll come across is Johnny Depp. For me, he’s not even in the top 20. I respect his willingness to do some weird things, but he does the same weird things over and over again. Play an ordinary man, Johnny, and show us what you really can do. Here, he’s weird again, but not really memorable.

Is “Alice in Wonderland” worth seeing? It’s something different and somewhat interesting in the middle of March, which is a rarity. It compares favorably to past Burton films, but the somewhat cliched storyline and frustratingly unnecessary use of special effects hinders me from really being able to recommend it.

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