Alice In Wonderland


Directed by: Tim Burton
Written by:Linda Woolverton
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover, Stephen Fry, Michael Sheen
Released: March 4, 2010
Grade: C+

Once upon a time, there was a director named Tim Burton.  Blessed with a quirky sense of humour, he became one of the finest storytellers in the land.  People would flock to hear his tales of inspirational superheroes, dreadful film directors and unexpected alien invasions.  He was a much adored figure and could seemingly do no wrong.

Unfortunately, there’s no happy ending to this story.  What has happened to Tim Burton?  Over the past decade, he’s directed two inferior remakes (Planet Of The Apes and Charlie & The Chocolate Factory) and a so-so musical (Sweeney Todd).  There have been glimpses of the old Burton (Big Fish and Corpse Bride) but things just aren’t the same.  His quirkiness has gone missing.

I’m sure this will be popular at the box-office but it may well be Tim Burton’s worst film yet.  Alice In Wonderland is a “flat” movie-going experience.  There’s very little to laugh about and very little to get the heart pumping.  The fact that it’s been “upgraded” to 3D has done nothing to improve its look either.  It certainly won’t have people drooling Avatar-style. 

Charles Dodgson (under the pseudonym of Lewis Carroll) wrote two novels revolving around Alice and her trips to Wonderland.  This film is based on neither.  Screenwriter Linda Woolverton has come up with brand new tale – one involving an older, more mature Alice (Wasikowska).

Now 19 years of age, the film begins with Alice accompanying her mother to lavish, outdoor party.  They’re celebrating Alice’s pending engagement to a wealthy lord.  Well, it’s actually everyone except Alice who is celebrating.  She is very unsure about her affections for this man.  When he does muster the courage to pop the question, Alice flees the scene.  She needs time to think and clear her head.

It’s now time to go back down the rabbit hole and return to Wonderland.  The evil Red Queen (Carter) has taken control of the kingdom and its residents now live in fear.  Those who dare retaliate are likely to hear the Queen’s catchphrase - “off with their head!”  Fortunately, it has been foretold that Alice would come back to Wonderland and return the White Queen (Hathaway) to her rightful place on throne.  She would do this by slaying the Red Queen’s nasty monster known as the Jabberwocky.

The problem is that Alice has no memory of her previous trips to Wonderland and doesn’t think she’s the hero that everyone believes.  Her first reaction is that it’s all a dream.  How could it be anything but?  That quickly changes when she realises the peril of the situation.  She won’t be waking up.  This is real.  Helping fulfil her destiny are an assortment of eccentric characters including the Mad Hatter (Depp), the White Rabbit (Sheen) and the Cheshire Cat (Fry).

The storyline reminded me of the first Narnia movie (The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe) – a film I found far more entertaining with its grand battle sequences and well-developed plot.  Australian actress Mia Wasikowska (from HBO’s In Treatment) does her best to liven up the adventure but the hill is too steep to climb.  Fans of Johnny Depp will be disappointed with his lack of screen time and meaningful things to say.  Save your money for the next Pirates Of The Caribbean film instead.

I had hopes for a Tim Burton comeback but sadly, the slump continues.