Friday, March 5, 2010

Alice in Wonderland: Feed your head

Posted By on Fri, Mar 5, 2010 at 4:01 PM

ALICE IN WONDERLAND

By Matt Brunson

ALICE IN WONDERLAND
**1/2
DIRECTED BY
Tim Burton
STARS Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska

Here's the problem with the vast majority of movies based on Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass: They're too tame, too hesitant and too conventional to really tap into the more unsettling aspects of an immortal fantasy that provides as much satisfaction for adults as for children.

The most disappointing adaptation is arguably 1951's Alice in Wonderland, the animated Disney version that misinterpreted the tale as merely a merry romp for small tykes. The best remains Jan Svankmajer's 1988 Czech import Alice, which employed stop-motion animation to create a creepy masterpiece. And now, falling down the rabbit hole of good intentions, is Tim Burton's new take on the classic, a visually stimulating rendition that nevertheless comes off as lamentably timid.

Carroll's 7-year-old protagonist has been transformed into a 19-year-old heroine (played by Mia Wasikowska), who escapes from a dull Victorian-era garden party only to find herself tumbling into the strange world known as "Underland." She quickly comes to learn that this mysterious place is ruled by the wicked Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), who has usurped the throne from her saintly sister, the now-banished White Queen (Anne Hathaway). Convinced that it's all only a dream, Alice largely stumbles from one incident to the next; her strongest ally proves to be The Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), who lost his marbles at the same time the White Queen lost her empire.

ALICE IN WONDERLAND

Providing unnecessary back story to an established character like the Hatter is the sort of boxed-in thinking that often torpedoes the picture. Scripter Linda Woolverton has some exemplary credits to her name (including Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King), but her talent for classically structured narratives gets in the way here, since Carroll's surreal saga is anything but streamlined. The changes made to the source material are, almost without exception, devoid of true vision or imagination, meaning that the most demented moments — such as the floating heads in the castle's moat, or the sudden appearances by the Cheshire Cat (still the story's coolest character) — need to be embraced whenever they sporadically appear.

As Alice, Wasikowska is rather listless, while Depp seems to be on board only as a favor to his friend and frequent collaborator Burton — in other words, he brings nothing special to the role. The only cast member who truly excels is Bonham Carter, whose performance is outrageous enough to meet the demands of the Red Queen's excesses yet also allows a smidgen of pity to be applied toward the character's resigned awareness of her own deformity. The actress clearly holds the winning hand here, trumping all other players in this rickety house of cards.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Pin It
Submit to Reddit
Favorite

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Creative Loafing encourages a healthy discussion on its website from all sides of the conversation, but we reserve the right to delete any comments that detract from that. Violence, racism and personal attacks that go beyond the pale will not be tolerated.

Search Events

www.flickr.com
items in Creative Loafing Charlotte More in Creative Loafing Charlotte pool

© 2017 Womack Newspapers, Inc.
Powered by Foundation