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Thursday, March 11, 2010 06:51 am

Alice, a wonder to behold, but cold


Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen

To be sure, there are moments when Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland truly soars. After the title heroine falls down the rabbit hole and becomes engrossed in a trippy world replete with odd creatures and vivid locales, the film achieves everything we hope it would. This material seems a perfect fit for Burton’s unique sensibility. Yet it suffers in much the same way the director’s worst movies do, as again he becomes far too enamored with his visuals and forgets to properly develop his story or characters.

Mia Wasikowska as Alice
Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is a young woman on the verge of being married off to a milquetoast of a man when she happens to spot an old friend, the White Rabbit (voice by Michael Sheen) who offers her the means to escape her predicament. Chasing him down the rabbit hole, it begins to dawn on our heroine that she’s been here before and that the nightmares she’s been having since she was young were actually repressed memories. Even more distressing is the fact that she’s informed it is prophesied that she will kill the dragon Jabberwocky (Christopher Lee), thus ending the reign of the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) and that her sister, the benevolent White Queen (Anne Hathaway), will take over.

The supporting cast, including Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter and the voices of and Alan RickmanStephen Fry as Absolem, the Blue Caterpillar and the Chesire Cat respectively, do their level best to inject some life into the proceedings. But like Alice, I couldn’t help but feel I’ve been here before. With elements of The Lord of the Rings, The Wizard of Oz, and many other girl-power stories, this Alice comes off as a gussied-up retread rather than a bold new vision. While there might be plenty to wonder at visually, there’s very little here to become emotionally engaged in.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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