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!