JT Film Review

76 – Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Alice in Wonderland REVIEW

2.5/5 stars

Director – Tim Burton

Cast Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover, Matt Lucas, Stephen Fry, Michael Sheen, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Tim Pigott-Smith, Paul Whitehouse


Alice in Wonderland is adapted from one of the best loved children’s books of all time of the same name, by Lewis Carroll. It is the latest of many adaptations, and as such its director, Tim Burton, recognized that a new approach needed to be taken to the classic tale. There is no point, he rightly thought, in merely repeating the work of others.

Burton decided to set the story some years after the books, and now Alice is in her late teens and her family is trying to marry her off to a horrid, snobby, snot of a boy. She is swept off by the White Rabbit again, who has been trying for years to get her back to Wonderland, where she must fight the legendary Jabberwocky and the evil Red Queen.

The cast performs admirably for the most part, especially for a movie shot almost entirely against green screen. The one problem in the cast is surprisingly Johnny Depp, whose Mad Hatter is all over the place, and not in the right way. First of all his accent changes dramatically from whiny and effeminate to butch and Scottish from time to time, and that is never explained. I got the sense that Depp is running out of weird characterizations, and decided to go with a mish-mash of Sweeney Todd and Willy Wonka.

The bright spots, acting-wise, are probably Anne Hathaway and Helena Bonham Carter, as the White Queen and Red Queen respectively. Anne is wonderfully dotty and “ditsy” with her over-the-top and purposefully on-the-nose portrayal of the do-gooder sister of Helena’s evil Red Queen, whose enlarged head dominates any scene she is in.

But despite the consistent work by a cast of Burton regulars, the story is the real let down of the movie. Despite a fabulous array of characters (most of which go horribly under-used) the story is the old well worn tale of a girl forced to find her true self by going on a journey to defeat an evil monarch in a fantasy land. It all leads up to a battle, where all the old clichés are trotted out on full display. Alice is told she alone can fight the Jabberwocky, and with no help (Why? Especially when it turns out to be SO easy to kill…), she finds the strength to turn down her snobby wannabe-fiance, etc etc. This makes the whole thing SO dull, SO boring. We have heard the sage words of advice, we have seen the plot SO MANY TIMES before. It is a pity Burton’s wonderful visual creativity doesn’t also extend to his story telling.

It is an old familiar complaint, to be sure, but a trend that is becoming more and more obvious. We can cry out for inventive story telling all we want, but nothing happens. Why? Because to be honest, the average moviegoer hasn’t seen as many movies as most reviewers, and thus a) doesn’t recognize old and overused stories, or b) are just looking for a little relaxation, and don’t want quality art. They want entertainment. All we can do (as people who have the audacity to think we know anything about movies) is write reviews for each other, and then go watch the movies we actually like. For as long, at least, as they keep making them.


Tim Burton is wonderfully inventive with his visual design, but the lackluster story is told with such boredom and with such a lack of energy that it hurts the movie irreparably, in my opinion. The cast is good, but none really excel. We still need our definitive Alice adaptation. Maybe sometime, someone will get it right.



“Alice in Wonderland” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia



March 10, 2010 - Posted by | 2.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Fantasy, Year - 2010-2019 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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