I did not have the highest hopes when I stepped into the theatre the other day to see Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. After all, the reviews have been mediocre at best. Unfortunately I cannot say that my opinion of the film differs much from most reviewer’s.
The film is undeniably entertaining. It begins with Alice, a beautiful 19 year old woman who gets proposed to by an unattractive goof of a man. The last thing she wants to do though is get married or grow up for that matter. I mean who would want to grow up when one could instead venture into Burton’s psychedelic Wonderland of unlimited possibility instead? When Alice stumbles upon Wonderland, we watch with breathtaking glee as she encounters the most absurd and scary of characters. The world that Burton has created is as imaginative as anything he has made in the past and arguably more beautiful. In 3D, even a simple drop of water keeps you mesmerized. One of the best, if not the best scene in the film is one in which Alice drinks from a bottle of potion labeled “Drink Me” and eats from a cake labeled “Eat Me” and proceeds to shrink and grow. Unfortunately the rest of the film seems to stumble along with no direction.
Alice encounters the Mad Hatter, played by Johnny Depp and follows his guidance for he believes that she is the savior of Wonderland. Depp plays the Mad Hatter with his signature bizarreness and tries hard to create an original character but in the end you cannot differentiate between Depp, the actor and his character. When I watched the film, all I could think was, “Oh there’s Depp again, acting odd, like he does in most of his films.” Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s a terrific actor but one whose fame has grown almost too large. Helena Bonham Carter is undeniably delicious as the Red Queen. She heightens every scene she is in into one of ludicrous art. We are told that she is “evil” but it’s difficult not to root for her. Her entourage of unattractive henchmen look like characters from a Commedia dell’arte play and add to Burton’s bizarre vision. Anne Hathaway is pleasant as the White Queen but the role hardly gives her room to exercise her very formidable acting muscles.
In the end though this film is a classic example of style over substance. It looks like a gorgeous acid trip but its story is overly simple and actually makes no sense. We never learn why the Red Queen is evil and why the White Queen is good and therefore never have any investment in the outcome of the story. I never really rooted for Alice or the “good” characters, nor did I particularly despise the Red King and Red Queen. There are also implausible elements in the film like how the Red Queen never suspects Alice of being Alice, despite the fact that there are rumors that she has returned to Wonderland. To top it all off Johnny Depp has a pointless dance at the end of the film for seemingly no reason whatsoever. I love Tim Burton so ultimately I was disappointed in his latest film because I know he can do much better.
Bottom line: If you really want to see this film, see it in 3D for a fun, dumb time or wait until it comes out on DVD.