Alice In Wonderland (2010)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 3/11/10
Director: Tim Burton
Special Effects: Sony Pictures Imageworks
Special Effects Supervisor: Ken Ralston
Music: Danny Elfman
Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover, Alan Rickman, Stephen Fry, Michael Sheen, Christopher Lee

Hmm... Enjoyable and pretty to look at, but ultimately disappointing and unsatisfying. Thirteen years after Alice's initial journey to Wonderland, she finds herself falling down the rabbit hole again. But this time, Wonderland is in the oppressive grip of the increasingly cruel Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) and in desperate need of a savior. Alice (pretty Mia Wasikowska) has no memories of her previous visit, but her adventure follows a familiar path. She meets the White Rabbit (Michael Sheen), Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry), and the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), who have all been awaiting Alice's return to fulfill the prophecy of her slaying the dreaded Jabberwocky (Christopher Lee). Reluctant at first, she finally accepts her destiny and picks up the fearsome Vorpal Blade.

Unfortunately, the film never seems to gel. The characters are unattractive, uninteresting, and make no effort to emotionally engage the audience. The story is also weak and uninteresting, attempting to replace the utter lunacy of Lewis Carroll's original work with a literal translation. The result is a muddled mess of weirdness and eccentricity, as opposed to outright illogic and insanity. In fact, it feels more like a trip back to Oz rather than Wonderland.

Visually, the film is splendid, and almost completely digitally fabricated. While the primary cast is mostly real human actors, their digital enhancements approach the Uncanny Valley and several characters come across as just downright creepy. Stayne's (Crispin Glover) bizarre proportions, in particular, make him extremely uncomfortable to look at. Even the non-enhanced characters are unpleasant to watch, from an orange haired gap-toothed Johnny Depp to Anne Hathaway's horrifying lipstick. The only pleasant sight is Mia Wasikowska, who is lovely throughout (despite some questionable wardrobe choices). Overall, the film is as fascinating as it is unpleasant, which makes for a bizarre experience. Danny Elfman's triumphantly epic score is the only thing that inspires any emotion in the film, and it nicely compliments the fantastic visual landscape. It's just unfortunate that more attention wasn't given to the story, characters, and acting.