Alice in Wonderland, the latest offering from Tim Burton, is a rollicking adventure story that entertains but doesn’t dazzle.
Our protagonist is Alice (Mia Wasikowska), an eccentric 19-year-old stifled by Victorian society. When we meet her, she’s on her way to a party-a party that is not all that it seems….
After enduring an embarrassing proposal, she runs away and falls down the rabbit hole. Then the real story begins.
Did I really like this movie? Yes. Enough to write fanfiction about it? If the mood strikes. But did I love it? I’d stop short of that. I feel Alice in Wonderland failed to meet its full potential. My main beef is the overall tone. Honestly, if I hadn’t been told it was a Burton film, I wouldn’t have guessed it. It’s more Charlie and the Chocolate Factory than Nightmare Before Christmas, so fans of Burton’s darker style may be disappointed. I know there are those who will disagree with me, and there’s certainly plenty of darkness to go around, but I wasn’t enthralled by the darkness like I was in, say, Batman Returns.
The plot itself isn’t as zany as I would have liked. It felt uncomfortably mainstream. A land as wacky as Wonderland (or “Underland,” that is), deserves a wacky plot. And for a while, it fulfills that demand. But then Alice turns into a “savior” of sorts, and the whole thing degenerates into an Untested Kid Out to Save the World story, with Wonderland as mere setting rather than a character in its own right.
But there are bright spots to be found, and plenty of them: Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter is the best character in the movie, with his slightly wall-eyed stare and bouts of…violence? Mere insanity? He’s the most interesting of Wonderland’s denizens, and by far the best-dressed (although Alice’s wardrobe of frilly dresses is nothing to be sneezed at). A close second is the Red Queen, played to pouty, tantrum-prone perfection by Helena Bonham Carter. Between them, they save the film. Other appearances include Alan Rickman as a blue caterpillar/hero’s mentor, and Anne Hathaway as the White Queen (don’t get too excited-her performance is pretty bland).
But don’t let all this negativity put you off from seeing it. It’s a wonderful adventure movie with much to recommend it. While the plot doesn’t take the direction I would have liked, it’s still fun. The characters are funny and diverse, and the action sequences are exciting. I’ve never met a Tim Burton movie I didn’t like, and I’m not starting now.
So in short, Alice in Wonderland is a pretty good adventure/fantasy. It’s geared toward kids and teens, but adults will find plenty to laugh at, too. Not the best movie it could have been, so I award it a B, but a solid one.