Friday, March 5, 2010

Alice In Wonderland

A well-written, great-looking adaptation of Alice made purely entertaining for absolutely any audience. Made for fans of Tim Burton, Disney epics, other Alice adaptations, visually stunning films and great movies – everyone.

Rated PG for fantasy action/violence involving scary images and situations, and for a smoking caterpillar.

Alice In Wonderland

With Disney’s new live-action re-telling of Alice In Wonderland being helmed by Tim Burton (Big Fish, The Nightmare Before Christmas), it hardly requires any marketing at all. The imaginative visual styles of Burton are a perfect match for the odd and insane story about a girl who falls into a land of wonder. Combine this perfect chemistry with the same realistic 3-D technology that has helped make Avatar an unmatched success and you have a Hollywood powerhouse that is an entertaining and absolutely fun movie-going experience.

Little-know actress Mia Wasikowska (Defiance, Amelia and the hit zombie indie short I Love Sarah Jane – check it out on You Tube) plays Alice, a 19-year-old girl who runs away from an awkward situation and ends up falling down a rabbit hole. Where the new Alice takes you after she arrives in “Underland” (we mostly know as “Wonderland”) strays from Disney’s classic animated adaptation – instead of wandering through Wonderland looking for a way to return to reality, Alice has a mission and a task to perform; there is a plot to this version of Alice In Wonderland and this time around it is not a super kid-friendly tale that leaves adults bored.

Aside from an unfitting 15-second dance sequence at the end of the film, Burton’s Alice never comes across as a movie made for kids. Not only is the story engaging and entertaining, but it is intense, frightening and downright beautiful. Although children will see and love it, there are far more elements in Alice made for adults than for children.

Unlike past versions of Alice In Wonderland that were odd for odd’s sake, this new version is fittingly odd – which is odd in itself because Tim Burton is usually downright weird for no reason. Nothing strange happens without a purpose or reason. It never feels out of place or unwelcome.

Disney has been advertising Alice as a Johnny Depp vehicle, and even though his role as the Mad Hatter is substantially larger than the one in the animated classic, this is Alice’s tale. Mia Wasikowska is a perfect Alice. Her performance is brilliantly complimentary to the tale. Depp should have taken notes from her, especially considering the poor quality of his Hatter. Depp’s Mad Hatter is a schizophrenic who bounces back and forth between a lispy lunatic and a Scottish brute, but it is never consistent. There is even one scene where Depp cannot help but go into his Jack Sparrow voice. There is a justifiable reason for his character bouncing around so much, but when the vocal choice causes twenty five percent of his dialogue to be inaudible, it is inexcusable. You get the impression that Burton didn’t have the stones to correct Depp in his bad character decision and let him do whatever he wanted.

Giving another remarkable performance is Helena Bonham Carter (Fight Club) as the Red Queen with a “regrettably large head.” Crispin “George McFly” Glover perfectly plays Stayne, the Knave of Hearts. He and the Red Queen make a perfectly menacing duo.

Fighting on the side of the Barbie-like White Queen (Anne Hathaway, Valentine’s Day) are the animated characters The White Rabbit (Michael Sheen, Frost/Nixon), Tweedledee and Tweedledum, the Blue Caterpillar (Alan Rickman, Harry Potter) and the Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry, V For Vendetta) – whom is sure to be an icon favorite for years to come.

Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland is the type of movie that the Chronicles Of Narnia movies try to be, but fail horribly. After seeing Alice, you will note that if Burton and his team behind Alice would have been put in charge of the Narnia series, it would easily be as popular and loved as the Lord Of The Rings films.

If you are planning on seeing one new film this weekend, make it Alice In Wonderland – no matter what age you are or if you will be accompanied by children or not. It is sure to be a good time for everyone. There is a lot to see and I am positive that you will pick up on more and more with subsequent viewings.

If that is not enough to get you to go, just know that if you see it in 3-D, you will get to see the teaser trailer for the upcoming Tron Legacy movie!

Photo credit: Walt Disney Pictures

4 out of 5

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