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Thursday, March 25, 2010

ALICE IN WONDERLAND (2010)

By D.E.Levine

Director: Tim Burton
Writers: Linda Woolverton (screenplay) and Lewis Carroll (books "Alice in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass
Cast: Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover, Matt Lucas, Stephen Fry, Michael Sheen, Alan Rickman, Barbara Windsor, Paul Whitehouse, Timothy Spall, Marton Csokas, Tim Pigott-Smith, Lindsay Duncan, Geraldine James, Leo Bill, Frances de la Tour, Jemma Powell et al.
Producers: Tim Burton, Joe Roth, Jennifer Todd, Suzanne Todd and Robert D. Zanuck
Executive Producers: Chris Lebenzon and Peter M. Tobyansen
Associate Producer: Derek Frey
Co-producer: Katterli Frauenfelder and Linda Woolverton
Original Music: Danny Elfman
Running Time: 209 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Genre: Fantasy, Adaption, Digital 3-D, Science Fiction

In their seventh film together director Tim Burton and actor Johnny Depp have created another unusual original that will withstand the test of time.

Adapting Lewis Carroll's two books, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, has been done before and several films and TV programs have been created.

There has never been an Alice like this one. And while smoking is generally frowned upon in movies these days, the Blue Caterpillar voiced by Alan Rickman is continually smoking and enveloped in smoke. It's simply part of his persona.

Backed and produced by established film notables, Disney took a chance by filming this extravaganza in 2-D and then converting it to 3-D. It's a strange story with a even stranger creatures inhabiting Underland.

Plagued since childhood by one recurring bad dream that takes place in a land she calls Wonderland, after her father's death, the now nineteen-year-old Alice attends a party that turns out to be her engagement party.

With everyone watching she turns and runs off, following the white rabbit, dressed in a waistcoat, and falling down a hole into the Underland, the land of her bad dream.

Underland is ruled by the tightfisted, evil Red Queen, a monarch with an enormous head who favors the phrase "Off with his/her head" and decapitation. In fact, the moat surrounding her castle is filled with the lobbed off heads of the unfortunate, including her late husband, the Red King.

It's vital to overthrow the Red Queen, defeat her favorite Jabberwock warrior and turn power over to the good and loving White Queen (who happens to be the sister sibling to the Red Queen).

Johnny Depp's lisping Mad Hatter plays a key role in the defeat of the Red Queen and the transition of power to the White Queen. His wonderfully eccentric looks and bright red hair add to his "madness" without being frightening.

Although Carroll's Alice is always called a children's' story, in truth it's a dark rather sadistic tale which fits perfectly in the Burton/Depp interpretation.

Burton's background as an artist is easily recognizable in the beautiful flora and gardens as are the unusual features and attire of his characters.

Alice is actually in peril in Wonderland/Underland. These characters and their warring over territory and freedoms are serious and provide a commentary on life in general and certain world situations.

Of course, things have changed since Carroll wrote his books, but the world remains a place of war and danger in modern times.

Burton's fascination with the dark side has found a perfect outlet in this version of Alice. Several characters are acted by humans (i.e. Alice, the Mad Hatter, the Red Queen, etc.) sometimes with a little help from CGI. Other characters are animated and voiced by well-known actors (i.e. Cheshire Cat, White Rabbit, Blue Caterpillar).

It's an interesting mixture of humans and animation. Until the last act - the battle scene. It's not that it isn't well done, because it is. And, it isn't as if we didn't know that good will triumph over evil. We know that for sure.

However, the battle scene is just, plain boring. With all the CGI and the regiments of red and white battling each other, it's dull. Additionally, even the "close calls" by Mad Hatter and Alice don't seem very exciting.

So what we have is a beautifully constructed, acted and filmed story that has been enhanced by CGI and 3-D. It just doesn't keep you on the edge of your seat and at the end the story is rather disappointing.