Tuesday, March 9, 2010



What people need to know and understand is that Burton's ALICE IN WONDERLAND is HOOK. Both films are based in the world of famous children's stories and are made by “visionary” directors. Both have the exact same theme of the hero who had adventures in a magical world as a child now grown up and having forgotten everything. Both have the now grown up heroes having to relearn the magic to save the day. Both are also epic fails of filmmaking.

As others have pointed out, this is not a retelling of the classic Alice story or its sequel, Through the Looking Glass. This would be considered the third part of the story, with the same characters. Yes, the World of Wonderland has been turned into a kid's adventure movie along the lines of Narnia or the Golden Compass. This world is now called Underland, and it's pointed out that Alice had always just mispronounced it. Alice and the Mad Hatter are now action heroes. I'm not kidding.

The film opens with a fancy gathering that doubles as Alice's engagement party. Alice is proposed to, panics, and runs away only to fall down the rabbit hole. From there we go through the classic “Eat Me Drink Me” antics where Alice grows and shrinks in size. You would think one scene would be enough but not for Tim Burton! For the rest of the film Alice fluctuates in size for no apparent reason except to put her in strange situations such as flying through the air on a hat or standing naked in front of everybody at the Red Queen's palace.

Is it the Red Queen or the Queen of Hearts? I don't even care enough to find out.

In this version, there is a prophecy about Alice liberating Wonderland or Underland or whatever it is by killing the Jabberwocky in an epic battle. This isn't really a spoiler since this ridiculous plot is jammed down our throats 10 minutes into the film. It's all foretold in a scroll, and we see the drawing of the battle three times before it happens.

I couldn't feel for one character in this film because the whole thing is so soulless and joyless. Crispin Glover as the Knave of Hearts is so bland I wanted to puke. For some reason, they decided to CGI his head onto a tall lanky body and give him erratic movements. It is totally distracting and the worst CGI I've seen in years. Why the Hell would you hire Crispin Glover and then paste his head on a skinny body anyway? Helena Bonham Carter, with her bulbous little head, is shrill and grating as the Red Queen. Johnny Depp should be great, but the Mad Hatter just feels like all of Depp's previous characters jammed into one. The big part of the problem with the Hatter is that he is forced into every aspect of the story whether it makes sense or not. Obviously it is just to get as much screen time for Depp as possible, but it ends up being pointless. I am now convinced that Anne Hathaway is a perfect specimen of woman, but even her White Queen comes off as hypocritical and bland.

The totally CGI characters are no better. Most of them are just slightly amusing at best. We have talking flowers, Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee who do absolutely nothing for the plot, a cocky mouse character that wields a hat pin like a sword, and a couple of rabbits (one mad, one not). I thought Alan Rickman as the blue heroin worm was alright, but when Whoopi Goldberg and the Hallmark Channel do a better Cheshire Cat than a Tim Burton Production, you have a serious problem.

All of the backgrounds are bright and colorful like you'd expect, but that's it. There is nothing that makes any of it memorable. This brings us to the film’s most obvious problem: the 3D marketing.

I am one who was fascinated by the 3D in Avatar because it was the best I had ever seen. It is so good that it really feels like the alien forest is coming alive right in front of your eyes, particularly some of the giant plants and lightening bug creatures. The 3D in ALICE is absolutely nothing like what we see in Avatar.

This is something that people need to understand before they pay to see ALICE in 3D. I cannot stress this enough!

I'll tell everybody right now, do not pay to see this in 3D. All you will do is spend more money, and you'll have to sit there with the uncomfortable, recycled, glasses on for no reason. In hindsight, I don't regret watching the film because I was just killing time anyway, but I do wish I would have just seen it in 2D. There will be other 3D films coming that will have to be better than this.

There are a few interesting scenes. One was when a 12 inch Alice had to cross a moat filled with decapitated heads. Alice has to jump from head to head, and it really feels like old school Burton. In another scene, the Mad Hatter is kidnapped by the Red Queen and put to work making hats for her. For those that don't know, the whole idea of Mad Hatters came about in the 1800's when hat makers still used mercury to make hats. Over time, these people would develop mercury poisoning, and the symptoms would include vision, hearing, and speech impairment, a lack of coordination, and mental illness. Because people at the time didn't realize Mercury was poisonous, it just appeared that those in this profession were all mad. Hence, mad as a hatter.

When the Hatter is happily making hats for the queen, I thought that they may bring up the real history of hat makers who were the victims of poisoning. Alas, Burton doesn't have the balls. The one standout is when the Hatter realizes for the first time that he's mad, and Alice comforts him. There's a sadness and confusion to it comparable to that in EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, but it's over in a moment.

And a couple of good scenes do not a good film make. I suppose it could have been worse, but to me ALICE is almost totally forgettable. Kids will probably like it, but I doubt many adults will. By the time the film gets to the giant chessboard war toward the end, I just wanted it to be over. When the Hatter turns into a cartoon and starts dancing with his head spinning around like Linda Blair in the EXORCIST, I wanted to gouge my eyes out with my 3D glasses. ALICE is at times visually appealing, but it has no other redeeming value. In the end, ALICE IN WONDERLAND is generic and pointless. I would not watch this again if it was free.

-Herb West

Read More from Herb West at MYMAVRA


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