Tim Burton has a flair for taking stories that are for younger audiences and turning them into something a little more. Sometimes the end result is a stunner, sometimes only a picture that is only mildly interesting. Alice in Wonderland, unfortunately, leans more towards the latter.
The plot follows 19-year-old Alice (Mia Wasikowska) as she finds herself in Underland (not Wonderland, mind you) for a second time, with no memory of her first visit as a child. The land has been burnt and blackened by the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) and her sister, the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) is marshaling forces to get the crown back. The only people in open league against the Red Queen are the mad ones - lead by a Hatter (Johnny Depp). The White Queen thinks she has found a champion in Alice, but it all comes down to Alice believing whether Underland is real or not.
Bonham Carter is all kinds of fun as the short-tempered Red Queen, while Hathaway is a study in the hilarity of body language. As would be expected - and is always the case - Depp steals the show, infusing his hatter with the right kind of careless mischief and an all-too-human broken heart. It is not quite what is expected from the character, but that kind of depth is Depp's bread and butter.
The biggest problem (in the story, and for the movie) is Alice. Not that Wasikowska is a bad actress - she shows some terrific spunk and wit both before and after her journey - but for her time in Underland, she seems bored at worst, bemused at best. Neither are traits that endear one to audiences.
If for nothing else, Alice is worth seeing for the true visual wonderland Burton creates. Underland looks like something out of T.S. Eliot mixed with C.S. Lewis, and he populates it with brilliantly crafted creatures (the best is the Cheshire Cat).
Burton fans will see the film regardless, and it's not that the movie is bad. It is just no wonderland.
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