"Curioser and curiouser..."
You probably know before you even see Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland whether you're going to like it or not. I personally never took the time to watch it, but not because I didn't think I'd enjoy it. It had more to do with how much I like the 1951 animated version. Well, and I found that the casting of Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter and the choice of Burton as director were a bit too on the nose.
Regardless, there's a reason why Burton and Depp were obvious choices: they work well. Burton brings all of the imagination and eccentricity you'd expect to the film, while Depp is perfectly peculiar as the Mad Hatter. Similarly, Mia Wasikowska as Alice and Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen are great, if not adventurous, casting choices.
|Mia Wasikowska, playing the same role she played in Crimson Peak.|
The framing device is the weakest part of the film, casting more than a few parallels with The Wizard of Oz while taking Burton out of his comfort zone at a fancy garden party as the film opens. Burton settles for a washed out look and overcast sky until he and the audience simultaneously breathe a sigh of relief when all that nonsense ends and Alice goes down the rabbit hole.
The film uses a ton of CGI, and while a lot of it isn't exactly realistic looking, the sometimes dodgy effects actually fit well within the movie's aesthetic. Most of the cinematography and design is beautifully done, and as a fan of the animated version, I was usually only disappointed when the movie paralleled the 1951 film. For instance, Absolem pales in comparison to the psychedelic rendering of the caterpillar from 60 years ago.
Aside from the visuals, the best part of the film is the acting. Depp and Carter are outstanding in their roles and you can tell that they really enjoyed hamming it up throughout the movie. Anne Hathaway and Crispin Glover are fine in their roles as the White Queen and the Knave of Hearts, although their roles aren't all that memorable. Wasikowska plays Alice capably, capturing Alice's sense of wonder early on and her determination as the film moves toward its conclusion.
|If you can include a picture of Anne Hathaway, you do. It's a rule. Or it should be, anyway.|
Overall, Alice in Wonderland is an enjoyable experience that is still somehow less than the sum of its parts. It's meandering at times and really stumbles its way to a rather corny ending and a hasty, ham-fisted wrap-up back after Alice returns to reality. It feels less zany and more calculated than you'd expect, but it's still worth checking out.