Eric Takes In The Scenery In Wonderland

19-year-old Alice returns to the whimsical world she first encountered as a young girl, reuniting with her childhood friends: the White Rabbit, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, the Dormouse, the Caterpillar, the Cheshire Cat, and of course, the Mad Hatter. Alice embarks on a fantastical journey to find her true destiny and end the Red Queen's reign of terror.

About 10 minutes into Alice in Wonderland, I found myself wishing that I was watching the movie in 2D. It wasn’t that the 3D effects weren’t good. They accomplished what they were supposed to. I think I’m just over it. The glasses and everything else associated with the new 3D phenomenon have begun to just feel like a hindrance and distraction from the storyline and the overall escapism of going to the cinema. Especially when you’re constantly pulled out of the imaginary world on the silver screen because you have to fidget with the glasses and try to keep them from slipping down your nose.

Director Tim Burton’s visual flair can definitely be seen in this interesting semi-remake / sequel. It has the dark and twisted landscape of a Burton film mixed with a grand Victorian flavor and architecture. He has that knack for combining beauty and bizarreness which has become his trademark.

The story is an interesting combination of ideas and situations from the original book put together with new plot points and more action-oriented scenes. It’s a pretty good marriage of Lewis Carroll’s literature and classic fairy tales (ala Sleeping Beauty and Snow White). What makes this a semi-remake is the fact that Burton has Alice repeat sequences and things she did in the original book to help her “remember” or realize that she has been to Wonderland before. She was there as a child, but pushed it away deciding that it was all just a dream. It’s a pretty ingenious little plot device. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few spots where the film loses steam but it manages to pick back up.

The acting is good. Johnny Depp pours himself completely into the role of the whacked-out Mad Hatter. Anne Hathaway is absolutely perfect in the role of the overly-proper White Queen, strutting around with her head held high. But the real treat is Helena Bonham Carter’s portrayal of The Red Queen. She’s deliciously evil and tyrannical as she points and screams “Off with their head!” Oh, and I can’t forget a special vocal performance by the great Sir Christopher Lee in a role I don’t want to spoil.

The CGI characters and effects look quite good. The characters all look pretty real – the Cheshire Cat, the Caterpillar, Tweedledee and Tweedledum – all share screen space convincingly with Alice. The Card Army in red armor with their javelins look very cool.

What you get with Alice in Wonderland is another good movie to add to your Tim Burton collection. It’s not his best work and can be slow, but you still feel that he genuinely wanted to do the film. It’s not as creepy or scary as it looks in the commercials. It’s still adequately dark enough, but I think younger kids will be alright with it…maybe not toddlers.

I could, however, go the rest of my whole entire life never ever seeing Johnny Depp do the awful break dancing thing he does at the end of the film. It almost ruined the entire film for me. You want to talk about stretching to try to be “hip.” This is definitely worth a view in 3D IMAX with the whole family. (Review by Eric Shirey)