June 18, 2010
Alice in Wonderland (2010) **1/2
Directed by Tim Burton
Alice in Wonderland (2010)- Stale and technologically dull. Depp needs to calm down & Wasikowska needs to cheer up. **1/2 out of 5
For a good time, call on Johnny Depp to make crazy faces and say things in silly ways. This seems to be Tim Burton's mission statement for much of this past decade. Sometimes it works--see Sweeney Todd. Sometimes it doesn't--see (or don't see) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Alice in Wonderland falls squarely in the later category since it's a monumentally dry re-imagining of the tale of Alice falling down the rabbit hole into a world of magic and frustration. Johnny Depp's role as the Mad Hatter gives him free reign to do whatever he wants on screen, and the result is...ummm... there. Depp does nothing beyond his quirky line delivery and facial contortions which come nowhere close to anything even remotely resembling character development.
This is my introduction to In Treatment actress Mia Wasikowska as the title character who's a young woman instead of a little girl as in Lewis Carroll's book. This time around, Alice doesn't remember that she saved Wonderland years ago, and it's foretold that Alice will defeat the Jabberwocky on Frabjolus Day. Thus, when she takes a moment to decide whether or not to marry a lord, she falls into the rabbit hole and learns of her abilities, which helps her decide about her own future as a woman. Wasikowska may very well be a good actress; however, she's not good at all as Alice. She delivers every line with a kind of bored annoyance, which may be explained by the fact that Linda Woolverton's screenplay is quite boring and frequently annoying. Woolverton's previous credits include contributions to Mulan and The Lion King, though this is the first time she's penned a film of this caliber on her own. Maybe she should go back to contributing because the script gives the actors on screen absolutely nothing to do that's remotely nuanced or interesting.
Burton's direction couldn't be more disappointing. Too often, his visual style, which is virtually unmatched by any director in Hollywood, takes a backseat to fairly lame computer generated effects. The sword fight at the end is so flat that it probably wouldn't get an A if it was submitted as a final project for a CGI course in film school. There are moments of fun and charm, most notably Helena Bonham Carter's wonderful performance as the Red Queen, but they're too few and far between to make this endeavor rise above a cynical exercise in selling Happy Meals and action figures.