Alice in Wonderland (2010)

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It all felt so, so right so where did it all go so, so wrong? One of my favourite directors (Tim Burton) bringing a version of my favourite story to the big screen with a lorryload of lush visuals and a suitably eclectic cast, I was ready to be transported to cinematic heaven. Then it didn’t happen.

Everyone knows the story of Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland by now. If they don’t then shame on them. It’s all about the girl who follows the rabbit down a deep hole that leads to the insanity of Wonderland. Potions and cakes can change your size, everything seems to be full of life and a certain monarch wants to chop off every head that ires her. Then we have the likes of the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, etc all helping or hindering Alice at various stages in her journey.

It’s a tale overflowing with wonderful imagination, a children’s classic that Lewis Carroll (real name = Charles Dodgson) is rightly remembered for over one hundred years after it’s initial publication. Yet Tim Burton brings us a movie adaptation of it that I wish to forget almost immediately.

The cast are all okay in their roles; Matt Lucas, Alan Rickman, Stephen Fry, Barbara Windsor and others may not make an outstanding impression but they don’t do themselves a disservice either. Mia Wasikowska, who plays Alice, is acceptable though as bland as bland can be. The standouts are Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter (though his performance is full of familiar tics and nuances that make you wish he had better material to work with), Anne Hathaway (loveliness incarnate as the White Queen), Crispin Glover being as great as he so often is in the role of Stayne and a wonderful Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen (channeling the spirit of “Queenie” from the Blackadder show, surely).

Then we have the visuals that are visually . . . . . . appealing. Everything is nice and colourful, for the most part, and each frame is crammed with offbeat design but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was all just shoehorned into the movie for the sake of it, with no thought to what each little random wonder of Wonderland could do to add to the unsatisfying whole of the movie.

The script? It’s okay when it’s quoting from the source material but for the rest of the time it’s unentertaining and, criminally, quickly tiresome.

Yes, that’s the main criticism I have to level against this film and Mr Burton. He’s taken one of the best, most imaginative works of relatively recent history and committed the unpardonable crime of making it into a bore. And that just will not do. Oh, and the least said about the dance moves on display here, the better.

And for those thinking that at least the 3D factor will provide more spectacle than usual; it has the odd moment here and there but it’s clear that Burton doesn’t know how to make the most of the technology he had on hand and even that falls flat. Strangely enough.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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