Monday, March 8, 2010

Movie Review: Alice in Wonderland

I am a grumpy asshole sometimes. I know that. Still, I hope that people in the world know that I don't actually begrudge them their entertainment. One man's totally awful, painful experience is another person's favorite movie. Art is subjective, even bad art. So, yes, you are totally empowered and entitled to believe that Alice in Wonderland is a good movie, even though it isn't. Here's the review:

Blather Jockey
Alice in Wonderland proves Burton has lost it

To director Tim Burton, the only thing more unimaginable than casting a minority in one of his films is allowing Johnny Depp to keep his dignity. Friends or not, if Depp had shot Burton in the face after watching the computer-generated jig his body was reanimated into performing during Alice in Wonderland’s dénouement, it would have been justifiable homicide. If something as flaccid as this exercise in 3D jackassery can leave a lasting impression, it will be remembered for the moment Depp and Burton officially became parodies of themselves.

Screenwriter Linda Woolverton was “inspired by” Lewis Carroll’s novels, insofar as “inspired by” means “encouraged to castrate and simplify.” Luckily, Carroll, a mathematician noted for playing with both words and logic, is dead, so he won’t be privy to the often dull and dumb endeavor his classic tomes served to “inspire.” The film opens with Alice, played by the so-pale-she’s-damn-near-translucent Mia Wasikowska, discussing a dream with her father. This dream is actually her first visit to Wonderland, the most boring fantasy world in all of creation, which she forgets for no explainable reason.

Fast forward and Alice is nearly 20 years old and about to be forced into marrying a yucky British royal. At the moment when Sir Snooty McBadteeth proposes, Alice sees the White Rabbit (Michael Sheen) and chases him down his magic hole. Once there, she meets some familiar faces, rendered with animation slightly less sophisticated than is used to make the Geico gecko. Tweedledee and Tweedledum (both played by Matt Lucas) and Dormouse (Barbra Windsor) can’t agree whether this Alice is the “right Alice,” so they ask the pot-smoking, er, hookah-smoking caterpillar (Alan Rickman), who speaks cryptically to further the plot.

Thankfully, the Mad Hatter (Depp) informs her that she is the correct Alice and that she must slay the Jabberwocky, the evil protector of the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter). The Red Queen has been given an enormously disproportionate head using computer effects presumably because Burton and Woolverton considered this both hilarious and sufficient character development. The White Queen (Anne Hathaway) doesn’t fair much better, having been painted whiter than an albino cave dweller, save for her black eyebrows and makeup. Both appear to have been costumed on some kind of dare.

The exact reason why the Red Queen must be overthrown isn’t clear; the White Queen seems to run an equal-sized kingdom, and the Red Queen’s biggest atrocities involve whacking people who stupidly choose to hang out with her and not the White Queen. The reason Alice must be the one to wield the infamous vorpal sword and slay the dragon is also unknown, as pretty much anyone in the film of appropriate size with opposable thumbs could carry the weapon and do the same thing. A fantasy film without fantasy, an ode to imagination without imagination, this is box office moviemaking at its most unabashed.

Burton’s fall from grace has been precipitous, as his last truly original endeavor was 1996’s Mars Attacks. On the other hand, Depp needs some kind of Burton-addiction intervention to save his talent; Bonham Carter is forced to participate because she’s married to Burton, Depp has no such excuse. Compounding the sadness is the fact that the director has developed an inexplicably loyal following based on previous success. If his fans follow onward from this point, they must no longer be pitied.

To be sure, Alice in Wonderland will make boatloads of money, as it has been carefully designed to exploit all key demographics; it is such a thing as dreams of Hot Topics purchases are made of. What it isn’t, what it isn’t even approaching, is good.

Grade = D

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The minute I even heard Burton was doing Alice in Wonderland, I knew this would happen. I'm kind of bummed about it...

- Matty

March 08, 2010  

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