Movie review: Alice in Wonderland

I just saw Tim Burton’s new Alice in Wonderland movie.   It’s hard to say if it’s a sequel to the books or a re-imagining of the whole thing.   In it, a young girl is accidentally transported from her humdrum everyday world to a fantasy land where she is recruited by one queen to vanquish another.   In doing so, she is escorted by a crazed, hat-wearing Johnny Depp, who offers her an odd assortment of shape-shifting snacks, as well as introducing her to an odd assortment of small identical people and various sentient animals.   Finally, the hero must locate an ancient sword and do epic CGI battle with a winged wraith and finally vanish an evil, big-eyed (and, in this case, equally big-headed) evil.

So, to sum up:

This isn’t to say that the movie is bad, necessarily… it’s just nothing new.   Burton’s Wonderland isn’t particularly wondrous at all; in fact, it looks a lot like the worlds of The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride and Sleepy Hollow, and if nothing else suggests an obsessive-compulsive fascination with spiral-shaped trees.   In fact, Burton doesn’t even call it Wonderland… in the movie, it’s known as Underland.

Most of the mathematical wit and logical nonsense that characterized Lewis Carroll’s original two stories (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass (and What Alice Found There) has been ejected in favor of a (rather sadly) pedestrian action movie in which Alice must prove that she’s not bound by rules and Victorian destiny by doing battle with an anemic dragon and a hydro-cephalic queen… which paradoxically is precisely what everyone in Underland says she’s destined to do.

That being said, the movie moves at a good clip, so it’s never particularly boring. Burton’s twin muses of Johnny Depp and Helena Bodham Carter are entertaining even underneath all the make-up and digital manipulation, and Depp’s celebratory dance at the end of the movie is amusing as hell.   It’s certainly a nifty popcorn-fodder movie, but regrettably nothing more.

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