Review in a Hurry: Director Tim Burton and Johnny Depp reteam for their seventh(!) film together, a reimagining of the Lewis Carroll books. This updated Alice should've been madly inventive, but instead feels like we've been down this rabbit hole before.
The Bigger Picture: Curiouser and curiouser—how does a film based on such fantastical source material end up, well, not so Wonder-ful? This dull, Disneyfied adaptation draws from Carroll's Alice books and poem Jabberwocky, but all the cobbling hasn't provided a solid enough story for Burton to hang his Mad-Hatter visuals on.
Presumably to snag a broader demographic, the new adventure transforms young Alice into a willowy 19-year-old (lovely but listless Mia Wasikowska), worthy of an Anthropologie catalog. Rebelling against Victorian mores, she flees her aristocratic twit of a suitor and follows a white rabbit (Michael Sheen) into the magical land from her childhood—though she inexplicably has no memory of it.
This being Burton, Underland (as the residents call it) is overgrown with striking imagery and gorgeously goth details—accompanied by a lyrical Danny Elfman score. But unlike a place called Pandora, this digitized domain doesn't fully exploit the 3-D possibilities, so you won't miss much without the glasses, except perhaps a headache.
All the expected guests show up for this joyless tea party, including Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry), Tweedledum/Tweedledee (Matt Lucas), and, of course, the Mad Hatter (Depp, once again a wildly coifed eccentric with a speech impediment).
They inform Alice of her destiny—to slay the dragon Jabberwock and overthrow the evil, bulbous-headed Red Queen (wickedly funny Helena Bonham Carter). And so Alice wanders along until the video-game-worthy climax, with our boho-chic heroine in Joan-of-Arc armor.
Because Alice's destiny is foretold, because she's in control of this dream, and because her character scarcely arcs from promising opening to extraneous coda, Alice gives us little reason to invest. And Burton, even with a team of CGI wizards, fails to conjure magic—it's nothing more than smoke and looking-glass mirrors.
The 180—a Second Opinion: O frabjous day! 'Tis uffish Crispin Glover who dost so well portray the Red Queen's slithy Knave of Hearts! Callooh! Callay!
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