Mar 8, 2010
I have a new hero, her name is Alice.
I've been hearing some negative reviews about Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland. Well, I'm here to tell you I thought it was absolutely delightful. That's not to say I didn't have issues with it, just that, as a Lewis Carroll fan I found it as imaginative as the source material. It seems audiences agreed, the film took the number one spot at the box office this past weekend raking in just over $116 million. It actually broke the IMAX weekend gross with $11.9 in just 188 theaters. Does it stick strictly to the original story? Absolutely not but it also doesn't have as many screws loose as Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory did. And that's saying something considering everyone in Wonderland is supposed to be mad.
Let me start out by saying, I love me some anthropomorphic animals. Can't really get enough of them. I wish animals who talked and wore clothing were real. Maybe that's why I love everything relating to Alice In Wonderland so much. Why I loved the film so much is simple - it had a good story. Whereas the books and classic Disney version are, for the most part, one nonsensical scene after another, Alice gives us a whole new plot where anything can happen. Yes, even meek little Alice picking up a sword. I can see how some people are offended by this but it's done in such a way that makes Alice more interesting than ever before. She's older now, the film centers on a second trip to Wonderland, and learns much about destiny and responsibility along the way.
Mia Wasikowska was a great choice for Alice. I didn't know someone could be so demure yet hold such a mighty presence on screen at the same time. Her numerous size-shifting exploits may have had something to do with it. Helena Bonham Carter surprised me as the Red Queen. The abnormally giant head/tiny body thing threw me off in the previews but was quickly forgotten as her bratty, royal behavior took over. It was Anne Hathaway's White Queen who I wound up finding peculiar. She had a very airy quality about her that reminded me a lot of Glinda the Good Witch from the Wizard of Oz but made me wonder how anything ever got done in her kingdom. Alan Rickman's Blue Caterpillar was spot on as was Michael Sheen's flighty White Rabbit. It was nice seeing George McFly himself, Crispin Glover, starring in such a mainstream film but he didn't come off quite as menacing as I believe he was supposed to. And finally, Matt Lucas has had many unique roles during his career but none have fit him so well as Tweedledee and Tweedledum.
And now to the bad. I hate to say it but Johnny Depp was my least favorite part of the film. Depp is an extremely talented actor, he just needs to stop working for Tim Burton. He also needs to take some time off from the quirky roles he's become so fond of (it was a breath of fresh air seeing him in the Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus) as he makes much more of an impression playing a regular character. His and Burton's take on the Mad Hatter (and yes, it was both their idea) is strengthened by his extended role but hurt by how it was performed. Let me see if I can explain that better. The role Hatter played in the film was one of greater importance than in other film versions but certain things Depp did with him took me right out of the movie. For example, Hatter is given a Scottish look yet Depp slips into the accent only a handful of times throughout the film. He also delivers the most gag-inducing, corny moment I've seen on film in at least ten years. I'm not exaggerating. The particular scene I'm referring to should be stricken from the DVD or at least replaced with something more fitting of the character and timeframe.
Sadly, there are a few things missing from the original tale or even the Disney version of the story. Some stayed the same while others were added to great effect. For instance, there is no Walrus or Carpenter to be found but you do get a satisfying croquet scene and the Bandersnatch is brought to life with thrilling results. Another gorgeous addition to the film were the costumes, particularly Alice's ever-changing wardrobe. I wouldn't be surprised if we saw a plethora of Alice's at this year's Comic Con International. All of her dressed were beautiful but it was her armor that wound up being my favorite.
I'm glad Alice In Wonderland did so well, in my opinion it was deserving of the box office returns. It wasn't as dark as I expected it to be but is still not for the youngins' (we get a few looks at the Red Queen's past beheadings). It's somewhere between Disney's version and American McGee's Alice. Although I thought it had a good message I wouldn't recommend it for anyone younger than 8, but make sure it's a mature 8 or nightmares will be had.
On a final note, the über talented Stephen Fry's Cheshire Cat warmed my animal-loving heart to bits (come on, it's a talking cat, what did you expect?). I didn't actually like the look of him before I saw the film but his casual kitty mannerisms throughout won me over. But I have to say, he reminded me a lot of someone else. Curiouser and curiouser...