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Movie Review: Alice in Wonderland – IMAX 3D

March 5, 2010

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There is a place. Like no place on Earth. A land full of wonder, mystery, and danger! Some say to survive it: You need to be as mad as a hatter.

So would subjecting yourself to a second viewing of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. Even a first for that matter. I’m not quite sure where to begin with everything that went wrong here.

You know the story, no sense in completely rehashing it other than to say the basic premise is here. Girl falls down rabbit hole, finds another world completely separate from reality. The mouse, the white rabbit, the Cheshire cat (with snazzy cheshire grin), are all here as well. That’s where the similarities mostly end as well. In Tim Burton’s mess, Alice in Wonderland is turned into a teen coming of age movie, and a terrible one at that. Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is being forced into accepting a marriage proposal with upper crust, elitist snob Lord Hamish (Leo Bill) in front of the rest of <ahem> society. Alice is told what to think and what do do, not exactly her own gal at that stage in her life. Just as she’s set to give her “yes” or “no” answer, Alice spots the rabbit checking his watch, chases him, and follows him down the infamous rabbit hole. The “eat me” cake and “drink me” potion are there, and eventually Alice steps into Wonderland. Actually “Underland” as it’s known here, where she meets the rest of this alternate reality’s inhabitants such as Tweedledee and Tweedledum, the March Hare, and a hookah smoking blue caterpillar. There’s a Knave (Crispin Glover), a Jabberwocky, and the poster boy for this disaster, The Mad Hatter. It’s as she makes her Dorothy-like entrance into Underland where the movie really begins.

It’s also where the rest of the movie completely falls to pieces, and it doesn’t take long to realize that Alice in Wonderland is about to become a monumental waste of your movie going dollars, as well as the hour and forty nine minutes that you’ll never get back.

What should have been the most thrilling part of the movie, the second act, was as mind numbingly dull as the beginning. We’re never given a reason to care for any of these characters, with the possible exception of the Mad Hatter. The stretches of boring last for such lengths of time, you don’t even care when something remotely interesting happens. You’re pissed that your sense of boredom was interrupted at all. My sense of “dull” was more thrilling than this movie. The third act, a three way duel sequence between Alice in Armor against a Jabberwocky, the Mad Hatter against the Knave of Hearts, and the Red Queen vs. the White Queen, threw this train wreck right off the rails. Like the rest of the movie, I just have to ask, “What was the point to all of that?” I have no problem with re-imagining a classic. If you want to take something like Alice in Wonderland and make it your own, great! At least do something with it other than creating a movie where the closing credits becomes my favorite part.

If the Academy had an award for Flattest Performance, Mia Wasikowska would win hands down this year, next, and probably last year for good measure. If she had played the role badly, at least it would’ve been interesting. No such luck. Alice has no spirit, no soul, nothing for us to care about, zero emotion, off with HER head for that matter. A cardboard cutout would’ve done the same job (maybe better) and cost Walt Disney less. Helena Bonham Carter played a great over-the-top Red Queen, but Anne Hathaway’s Wicked Witch of the North portrayal of the White Queen was just plain annoying. Crispin Glover as the Knave of Hearts was the second most interesting performance next to Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter, a role suited for his brand of maniacal delivery. But even Depp’s inspired lunacy couldn’t save any of the scenes he was in.

Alice in Wonderland’s “Underland” world looks good. It has that much going for it. But the backdrop reality looked entirely disjointed from each performer, giving a distractingly fake appearance. There was little cohesiveness between actor and the world around them. Even when it looked good, it actually didn’t. That has to be an achievement. It looks more like an acid tragedy than an acid trip.  And the 3D? Don’t bother. Not that I was spoiled by the 3D in Avatar, the 3D in this movie is a mostly unnoticeable afterthought, almost as if it was put there as an addition to a marketing campaign. There’s nothing immersive, nothing that shoots through the screen. The 2D showing would be just fine for this.

Alice in Wonderland is the definition of missed opportunity. What could have been wonderful fantasy on a grand, epic scale turned into woeful fantasy on a grand, epic fail. I can only imagine the moods of theater owners who had to give up Avatar on their IMAX screens to make room for this. I want my money back. Off with your….whatever…

One out of five stars

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