Alice in Wonderland is Tim Burton's latest reimagining of a classic tale, complete with his partner and frequent collaborator, Helena Bonham Carter, and even more frequent collaborator, Johnny Depp. With the Burton formula securely in place, does this re-envisioning work?
Let me preface this by saying that I have never read any of Lewis Carroll's original books and I'm not even sure if I've seen the 1951 animated film. If I have, I surely don't remember any of it. No, I'm entering Wonderland as innocent and wide-eyed as a newborn.
Alice in Wonderland follows the titular Alice as she escapes her dreary England life by falling down a suspiciously large rabbit hole and plummeting into a world that she insists is only a dream. She falls down the hole by mistake, but if I were living her life I would have gladly leapt in head-first. Burton does a good job of portraying a life that is in no way her own. Her decisions - right down to what emotion she should be feeling and what thoughts she should be thinking - are made for her by people who are creepy and almost robotic in their way. Alice going to Wonderland is more of an escape for her than it is for us.
Unfortunately, that world - as unappealing as it is - is much more engrossing than Wonderland. It's not as fun, to be certain, but it was a wholly believable place. Wonderland is a mix of hit-and-miss CGI and flat characters. I completely understand why it would be a hard world to bring to life, given how extraordinary it is. But as difficult of a task as it is, the task was still accepted, and the results were less than great.
Wonderland definitely isn't lacking in the actual "wonder" department. I said the CGI was hit-and-miss and some of the hits are bullseyes. Tweedlee and Tweedledum look fantastic and are played to perfection by Matt Lucas. Helena Bonham Carter does an excellent job as the Red Queen, but her bulbous head is just distracting and screams "look how unique this character looks."
Obviously, the characters that are purely CGI - the White Rabbit, Cheshire Cat - are the most jarring to see interacting with the actors. As impressive as they looked, we are still not yet at a place where computer-generated characters can mingle with human beings without causing some sort of disconnect.
Although the characters may leave much to be desired, the cast does their best. The relatively-unknown Mia Wasikowska does a great job as Alice, and yes, Johnny Depp is pretty fantastic as the Mad Hatter. Though I can't say the same for his character design. I know he's supposed to look mad, but why homeless and repulsive?
Alice in Wonderland is a lot of fun and is very hard not to like on some level. As far as escapist entertainment goes, it succeeds, but on a very shallow level. While I didn't hate my time in this magical world, I never fully cared for any of its inhabitants. It will be soon forgotten, which is a strong thing to say, considering some of the dazzling imagery.
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