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Review: Alice in Wonderland

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There are many ways that you could describe Tim Burton’s style as a director. The words quirky, unique, and peculiar all come to mind off the top of my head. But going in to one of his movies always provides a sense of giddy anticipation for what world you might be stumbling into. Burton is so consistently inconsistent in his style that each outing with him feels like a brand new experience. I find myself much like Alice stumbling down the rabbit hole when faced with a new Burton movie. I don’t know what is to come, but curiosity always drags me in.

Burton’s take on Alice in Wonderland, a semi-reimagining, semi-sequel to the story most of us are familiar with, is as much a mixed bag as his career has been.

There are many ways that you could describe Tim Burton’s style as a director. The words quirky, unique, and peculiar all come to mind off the top of my head. But going in to one of his movies always provides a sense of giddy anticipation for what world you might be stumbling into. Burton is so consistently inconsistent in his style that each outing with him feels like a brand new experience. I find myself much like Alice stumbling down the rabbit hole when faced with a new Burton movie. I don’t know what is to come, but curiosity always drags me in.

Burton’s take on Alice in Wonderland, a semi-reimagining, semi-sequel to the story most of us are familiar with, is as much a mixed bag as his career has been.{{page_break}} The stylized universe that Alice falls into is quite impressively unique. The visual style is distinct, but in such a way that is off-putting. That very inconsistency which Burton has mastered over his films seems to flourish within the bounds of this one. Backgrounds feel out of place, colors clash violently, and characters range from eloquent to barely intelligible. It feels as if almost every moment of the film is crafted to make you squirm in your seat.

The quality of acting falls along the same kind of drastic spectrum.  Mia Wasikowska has a fairly convincing performance as Alice, while Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter is stuck in an odd position between outright mad and fairly charming. Other stand out characters include Anne Hathaway’s awkward White Queen, Crispin Glover’s barely believable Knave of Hearts, and Stephen Fry’s soothing voicework for the Cheshire Cat. None of these roles are persuasive, with character ticks often causing confusion with their regard to the rest of the narrative. But, by far, the most entertaining performance comes from Helena Bonham Carter’s amazing portrayal of the demented Red Queen. The combination of CGI and the actress’ raw talent creates one of the most believable disfigured characters that has ever graced the silver screen.

In terms of animation, the film is almost completely comprised of computer-generated visuals. While these are quite pervasive throughout the film, their quality often seems to suffer from how much is occurring on screen. You get the feeling that the animators were so overwhelmed with the sheer prospect of mapping a computer world onto real actors that textures and visual design didn’t get the full attention that they could have. While some plants or animals in the film seem especially inspired, others, particularly those in the background, feel bland and out of place with the rest of the film.

It isn’t that Alice’s story isn’t fulfilling -- it actually tends to lay out a much more distinct plot than the original Disney film -- it is just that it feels too much a product of the current status quo for narrative. For such a bizarre and rich concept, this version of Alice tends to play it extremely safe, especially with regard to the third act. This is unfortunate, since concept deserves a much more fresh approach than it was able to receive.

In all, Alice in Wonderland is far from boring and leaves you feeling generally satisfied. You won’t get a feeling of wonderment or see something that you never have before, but you will be fairly entertained. If you enjoy the Disney classic, you’ll definitely find something of worth in this CG-fueled incarnation.

Score: 6.10 (6s are just okay. These movies usually have many flaws, didn’t try to do anything special, or were poorly executed. Some will still love 6s, but most prefer to just rent them. Watch more trailers and read more reviews before you decide.)

Alice in Wonderland is a serviceable companion to the original Disney film. It takes very few liberties in order to present a generally satisfying narrative. The visual style is adequate, but can be all over the place in terms of quality.

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Alice in Wonderland reviewed by Robin Barr

6

ALL RIGHT

Slightly above average or simply inoffensive. Fans of the genre should enjoy it a bit, but a fair few will be left unfulfilled.
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