Alice in Wonderland (2010) Review
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Lewis Carroll’s beloved novels, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, have been reworked and rewritten so many times that I can’t even remember the original story anymore. I do know, however, that the version in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland isn’t it. Instead, it’s part remake and part sequel, with a whole lot of Burton’s wild and crazy imagination to fill in the cracks.

For the last 13 years, Alice Kingsley (Mia Wasikowska) has had the strangest dreams about traveling to another world—a world filled with talking animals and other strange characters. But now that she’s a grown-up, her mother expects her to put her childish dreams aside and settle down—specifically with Hamish (Leo Bill), who intends to propose.

Unsure of her feelings for stuffy, proper Hamish, Alice runs away from her own engagement party. She chases a white rabbit through the garden and suddenly finds herself falling down a rabbit hole that leads to another world. There, she meets talking flowers and hookah-smoking caterpillars, and she’s chased by a giant monster with lots and lots of teeth.

The creatures all seem to think that Alice has been brought to this world into a very important reason. They say that she’s supposed to slay the Jabberwocky (yes, the Jabberwocky), thereby overthrowing the evil Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) and returning her good (but extremely flighty) sister, the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), to the throne. But Alice isn’t interested in slaying anything; she just wants to wake up from this strange dream.

Burton’s Alice in Wonderland is a trippy jumble of gimmicky 3D graphics and oddly misshapen characters—from Helena Bonham Carter’s huge-headed Red Queen to Crispin Glover’s stretched-out Knave of Hearts. It’s visually fascinating, but it all seems just the slightest bit…off.

In fact, the same can be said about most aspects of the film. It’s intriguing…but it’s just slightly unsettling. It’s colorful and imaginative…but it still has Burton’s undeniably eerie signature. It’s based on a beloved children’s story…yet it’s often surprisingly dark and creepy (and scary, too!).

Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter is a wild card, too. He could just be lovably batty, or he might actually be criminally insane (and the fact that he tends to flip-flop at random between a childish lisp and a deep Scottish brogue seems to suggest the latter).

Of course, all of this is exactly what audiences have come to expect from Burton. And, with Alice, he mixes the peculiar whimsy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with the intriguing quirkiness of Edward Scissorhands.

While Alice in Wonderland is definitely quirky and whimsical, though, it doesn’t have the same creative genius of some of Burton’s other films. Like the Hatter, it’s just not quite right. Granted, it’s quite a fascinating spectacle—and Burton fans are sure to enjoy its eerie eccentricities. But a lovable and enchanting Disney remake it’s not.

Blu-ray Review:
Disney may have released the Alice in Wonderland Blu-ray just 12 weeks after the film’s theatrical release, but, while another recent quick-turnaround release (which shall remain nameless—though it rhymes with “schmavatar”) chose to sacrifice special features for the shorter lead time, that’s not the case with Alice. The three-disc combo pack (which includes DVD and digital copies of the film) still features plenty of extras, which offer a peek through Tim Burton’s looking glass.

The disc’s special features are separated into two sections, each of which is then broken up into six featurettes. The Wonderland Characters section takes a closer look at some of the main characters—like Alice, the Hatter, and the Red Queen. These features discuss things like wardrobe, makeup, and other challenges of the role. There’s even a time-lapse feature showing Helena Bonham Carter’s daily hair and makeup regimen. The Making Wonderland section, on the other hand, looks at the more technical aspects of making the film—things like Danny Elfman’s score and the variety of visual effects. Even the tea party cakes get their own featurette.

After watching these features, you’ll have a greater appreciation for the process—and for Crispin Glover, who performed in a green leotard, against a green screen, while walking on stilts. They’re interesting—yet relatively short—extras. So if you’ve got some extra time after watching Alice, be sure to browse through the special features menus.

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