Sunday, March 7, 2010

How Alice got her groove back

I am going to start off with a bit about my movie experience before moving on to "Alice In Wonderland". I knew I was seeing a PG movie but was dismayed by the number of Cartoon Network commercials I was seeing in the 20 minute land of the lost before the movie starts. The low point was a Pinocchio rip-off called Veggie Tales : Pistachio (ugh!). I reminded myself that this was a Tim Burton movie; so that had to count for something.

The Set Up : I am not as familiar with the original Alice stories as I may have once been but it appears Tim Burton has gone with a mix of elements from the original Alice, Through the Looking Glass and Carroll's wonderfully senseless poem Jaberwocky (all sprinkled lightly with some Chronicles of Narnia action). We first see Alice as a young girl asking her father if she is bonkers because she has been dreaming about falling down a rabbit hole and talking animals. He reassures her with a famous line about all the best people being bonkers. We find Alice next as a 19 year old girl with a dour mother ( Dad has died), and she is being dragged to a afternoon party where there is a trap of sorts. She will be proposed too by a pretentious dorky sort from the upper-class who cautions Alice "when in doubt, be quiet". This is all of the classic recipe for the female empowerment story that will take place when Alice runs away and falls down the rabbit hole ( is it just me or can you not read that phrase without thinking about drugs?).

The Good: Once in Wonderland we are met with all of the characters that have become part of our cultural landscape. When first seeing trailers, I was worried the movie was too much about Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter but it isn't so. Everybody in Wonderland gets there screen time and uses it well. Tweedledee and Tweedledum are at times laugh out loud funny, the Blue Caterpillar is wise ( and yes he smokes a hookah but we're not told what's in it??), and the Cheshire cat is clever in spades. I have read that the Helen Bonham Carter steals the show as the Red Queen and I agree. She is a storm of what we might term passive aggressive behavior with plenty of "off with their heads" I'm glad Depp has a more scaled back performance that may have been expected. My opinion is that this was on purpose because there were a lot of people left with a queasy feeling over the wild eyed androgynous Willy Wonka . It is through Depp though that Burton most delivers his dark take on Alice. The Mad Hatter's madness is one rooted in sadness and a manic desperation due to his beautiful world being warped by the Red Queen.

The Bad: I don't know if the blame belongs with Tim Burton or Disney but outside of Wonderland the story does seem trite. The ending especially seems rushed and too typical. Alice quickly deals with all of her non Wonderland problems and even finds prospects of future independence in a career and this is all in the last 5 minutes ( it seemed). Tim Burton has made his mark on the world by letting people who might see the world a bit askew that it's ok and to compromise any of that would not be a good thing.


Matthew K. said...

First time visitor here. I like that you keep your reviews brief. They're also very well written IMHO. I'd like the site a bit more if you gave us some sort of identity we can interact with. I just left "Alice" and I have to agree with your take. It was a gorgeous looking movie, but the story just left me unmoved. Even though it's a classic tale, it seemed similar to every "coming of age" fantasy movie in the last 10 years.

Mocking Movies said...

Thanks for the positive feedback. I appreciate it. I think you are right in that now that I have all of the set up done, I need to add some more personal touches.

gazaar said...

From the onset, this movie IS about being a bowl of Skittles for your eyes. It DOES accomplish that. As far as the actual story, well, it WAS written 145 years ago, and has been told and retold too many ways for it to be as riveting NOW as it may have been THEN.
The biggest disappointment, to me, was the 3D, which was partially the biggest reason I wanted to see it. This movie was shot in 2-D and then converted to 3D, with the result being more of a toy effect, like certain scenes were in a ViewMaster. To contrast that, a film like Avatar was shot in 3-D, and really came off as a more impressive, organic feel. All in all, it did what it was supposed to do, visually, and that's all that I was expecting anyway :)

Mocking Movies said...

I did not see it in 3D so I did not have that problem but have seen other people talking about it online. The story? Well, the originals are really just a series of Alice meeting the different characters without too much of a connecting story. I understand that he needed a plot rather than a series of vignettes but I thought the set up and resolution were the weakest parts of the movie. As far as the end, I got it, she now had her "muchness" back and would be ok. I didn't really need to have it spelled out in so much detail. I like "a bowl of Skittles for your eyes" by the way.
Thanks for commenting Ben!!