“Alice in Wonderland” Movie Review

    With “Alice in Wonderland”, director Tim Burton and actor Johnny Depp are at it again in a typically off the wall collaboration yielding mixed results.  Whereas some may have believed this to be a retelling of the original story, it is actually a sequel which takes place when Alice is 20 years old.  We know she’s already been to “Wonderland”, but here she dismisses the original experience as a childhood dream and actually seems quite lost when she arrives again in this very strange place.

    I say strange for a number of reasons.  With a collaborative body of work which includes Sweeney Todd, Willy Wonka, Sleepy Hollow, and Edward Scissorhands, Burton and Depp find themselves right at home with this material.  All of Burton’s spooky visuals and gloomy style are on display throughout and clearly he was a great choice to helm a project like this.  Depp, as the Mad Hatter, is also perfect for the part, but I have a question.  If Depp was inspired by Michael Jackson when performing as Willy Wonka and if he was channeling Keith Richards while playing Jack Sparrow, then who in the hell is his inspiration for the Mad Hatter?  Of all the roles Depp has played, I can’t remember one being more odd and that’s saying something!  Either way, the two of them give me the idea they could churn movies like this out in their sleep, so does this film deliver?

     We are immediately introduced to a 20 year old Alice, played by newcomer Mia Wasikowska, just prior to her being proposed to by a dorky looking London royalty type guy in what appears to be an arranged marriage.  As Alice is being prepped by all involved, her attention is grabbed by the “I’m late for a very important date” rabbit, presumably the same rabbit from the original story.  She follows the rabbit to it’s hole and falls in, putting her on the door step to Wonderland.  As she enters, we are immediately introduced to a colorful world full of outrageous characters.  Think Pandora, but Tim Burton style.  It is soon revealed that Alice is seen by the world’s inhabitants as a savior in the battle against the Red Queen and her army and that is what drives the plot of the story.

     Along the way she encounters many of the characters seen in the original film.  Helena Bonham Carter’s face and voice are attached to a rendition of the Red Queen with a giant globe like head.  With many of the characters remaining dull throughout the film and Alice always serious, Carter’s Red Queen provides the comic relief which garner a few well timed laughs as well as delivery of the famous “Off with his head” line.  I’m not sure where Depp was going with his character, but I didn’t feel like he added much to the film.  He was memorable because of Depps ability to make the character unique, but did not set himself apart like he did with Jack Sparrow even though the Mad Hatter was a central character with a generous amount of screen time.  Anne Hathaway appears as the White Queen but isn’t given much to do but just float around.  Crispin Glover (aka: McFly in Back to the Future and The Thin Man in Charlie’s Angels) appears  as Stayne, the main henchman for the Red Queen.  Again, I’m not sure where they were going with this character and maybe he was tame because this film is ultimately aimed at kids, but I felt he was out of place and not threatening at all.  When he shows up to the Mad Hatter’s tea party, no one is really afraid and so you begin to think what is so dangerous about these villains?  Why do they need Alice to save them?

     Overall, the film is entertaining and serves as a proficiently done modern makeover of a classic story.  Maybe Tim Burton and Johnny Depp were too perfect for the material and therefore went a little over the top.  I would’ve liked to have seen a more menacing villain, one who would justify the need to go find Alice in the first place.  The film in whole seems to be an average outing for a very talented director and an iconic actor.  You likely won’t be disappointed after viewing Alice in Wonderland, but I doubt you will be gushing with praise either.  GRADE: C