A magical special-effects polished world and a fun and colorful cast of characters make for redeeming qualities, but a trip to Wonderland can make a viewer wonder why they took the trip at all.
Tim Burton’s vision of Alice in Wonderland, based on the Lewis Carroll novels Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, is a visual stunner. It’s dark, edgy, and is perfect for Hot Topic merchandising (OH, HI THERE) with its innovative (But not really unique these days) use of live action with 3-D animation along with extensive and lavish makeup. Talking animals, freaks galore, eccentric elitists, and a curious heroine are the players among backdrops of forests both in bloom and barren and kingdoms both Disney princess-esque and Disney villain-esque. If the film allowed us to see and get to know them all more, Alice could’ve lived up to its hype.
The film opens with 6-year-old Alice Kingsley talking to her father about the impossible. Fast-forward thirteen years later when Alice (Australian actress Mia Wasikowska in her first leading role) is now a 19-year-old English socialite and heading to what she later finds out is her engagement party. The ever-so-curious girl sees a rabbit running through the garden and later sees it beckoning to her as a fellow socialite proposes to her with the entire party watching. Instead of giving a ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ Alice attempts to catch the rabbit, only to fall down the rabbit hole.
For the next couple of hours, we follow Alice as she shrinks and progresses in size and encounters a familiar array of characters, including Dormouse, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, the Cheshire Cat, and a very Mad Hatter (top-billed Johnny Depp). We also find out that she’s not in Wonderland just because she fell down a rabbit hole – she has a purpose there and according to documents and folklore, Alice is destined to slay the Jabberwocky (America’s Best Dance Crew was all that came to mind). But a few folks give her a hard time that she’s not the Alice. The reigning Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) and her kingdom, whom the Jabberwocky is held by, are threats to all things good in Wonderland and Alice could be the one to stop them.
The characters in this film are lovable and the acting is well-done, despite a lackluster script. Newcomer Wasikowska, Depp, and Anne Hathaway (Who plays the White Queen) embody the fascination, madness, and grace, respectively, that their roles represent. Carter’s performance as the villain is probably the strongest point of the movie – she’s hilarious, snarky, and ruthless. However, it is difficult to emotionally connect with them and therefore, what they go through in the story. For a personal example, it’s easy to like Alice as a person, for her sweet unassuming nature, but in her pursuit of the Jabberwocky, who cares what happens to her? I wanted to know more about her personal struggles, and I wanted to see better relationships developed with all of the characters. The film lasted for about a couple of hours, yet it felt like it all went by too fast with questions left unanswered.
I wanted more of the Cheshire Cat. His computer-generated crazy-wide grin was unbelievably amusing.
Also, Depp does an unnecessary and freakish dance at some point in the film. It might trip you out when it randomly appears, but it might also make you laugh.
There are some fun moments in the film, but overall, not as great or exciting as I was expecting or hoping for. If you’re late for this important date, it’ll be okay.
OVERALL SCORE: 6.5/10