30 Second Review: Alice in Wonderland

30 SECOND REVIEW: Alice in Wonderland
directed by Tim Burton, released March 5, 2010

Before you read this review, I have to let you know that I have never read any of the Lewis Carroll Alice adventures – I found the illustrations to be too creepy (that Queen of Hearts… shiver!).  Nor have I seen the Disney film in its entirety.  I did see the Minneapolis Children’s Theatre’s production, many times, and I certainly have learned the story through our culture’s fascination with Alice, but I cannot say I’m an authority on all things Alice.  With that caveat, I completely, thoroughly, absolutely enjoyed Tim Burton’s recent release of Alice in Wonderland.

I saw the IMAX 3D version of the film last night.  Knowing Tim Burton’s propensity for comely weirdness, and having read some less than glowing reviews, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was rewarded with a really fun film.  I understand that the film was less than true to the flow of the stories (one reviewer called it “Alice in Gondor” due to the emphasis put on the fight with the Jabberwocky), but for me, the story in the film was fluid and thrilling.  After all, who doesn’t want such a spectacular Mad Hatter having a larger role on screen?

And yes, Johnny Depp was wonderful as the Mad Hatter.  His creation was beseechingly presented (those eyes were magnificent!) and quirky without being over the top.  Helena Bonham Carter was marvelous as the Red Queen, vainglorious and bulbous at its best.  Crispin Glover as the Knave of Hearts was his usual freaky goodness, and Mia Wasikowska was very sincere as our heroine, Alice.  Kudos also should go to Stephen Fry as an absolutely fantastic Cheshire Cat and to Alan Rickman, who gave the normally aloof Caterpillar a crotchety allure (another character with which I normally have goosebump issues).

But what really made the film for me was the realization of Wonderland.  I found it compelling, drawing  me in with every unfolding scene.  One person in my party was a little disappointed that it wasn’t “Tim Burton enough” in his estimation, but I found it perfectly played out with a whimsy and even a touch of pathos that made Edward Scissorhands and Big Fish such successes.  Visually, it was lush without being overwrought, or taut without being sharp.  Creatures were fantastical while still being realistically realized, not too scary nor too cute.   The Cheshire Cat was especially marvelous – I finally got what this critter was all about, and I loved it!

I will admit that the 3D effects were a bit muddy at times.  Close shots were less successful than panoramas or third person views – for instance, when Alice first plummeted down the rabbit hole, seeing her fall from a distance was far more compelling than when we were falling “beside” her.  But the sharpness and crispness of the majority of the scenes was amazing.  The scene with the key and the door to Wonderland (where Alice both shrunk and grew) was divine.

I would definitely recommend Alice in Wonderland to all moviegoers, young and old (it was definitely not too intense for children, although maybe too scary in parts for children under 5).  Wildly imaginative without being giddy or gaudy, fast paced, recognizable, beautiful and fun, it earns a hearty A+ from me.  For those who turn up their noses at this delightful offering – off with your head!

~ by arcticwren on March 11, 2010.

2 Responses to “30 Second Review: Alice in Wonderland”

  1. I was not particularly enamoured with her portrayal of the White Queen, but I’m not sure that was entirely her fault – the character just didn’t seem larger than life like the others were. She seemed a little off in looks, too: those voluptuous dark lips with the straight, bland hair, for instance. But while I feel the concept of the White Queen was dull, I did like how she put touches in her performance that made me chuckle, such as her constant hand-posturing and her penchant for blanching when dealing with distasteful things, such as the Jabberwocky blood. So I’m kinda on the fence with the White Queen character.

  2. I agree whole-heartedly with everything you’ve said. The film was absolutely brilliant in it’s entirety. I was unable to see it in 3D, but I am grateful for that. I do not particularly care for 3D movies and don’t understand the recent fascination with them.

    I was just tickled when I heard Alan Rickman’s voice for the Caterpillar. Wonderful work, as always from him.

    What are your thoughts on Anne Hathaway’s performance?

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