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"(Tim Burton's) Alice In Wonderland" Review

Tim Burton has had a spotty track record for the past decade as his remakes, er, "re-imaginings" of old movies like Planet of the Apes and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory were artistic stiffs and original stories like Big Fish or his adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's atonal Sweeney Todd didn't light up the box office like his Batman movies did. When it was announced that Alice in Wonderland was going to get the Burton treatment with his trusty sidekick, Johnny Depp, playing the Mad Hatter expectations were high and for the most part AIW meets them.

Mia Wasikowska (pronounced "Mia Wasikowska") plays the grown-up Alice who again tumbles down the rabbit hole and ends up in the Matrix, er, Underland (as the locals call it) where she re-meets all the familiar characters again for the first time. See, she doesn't remember her visit as a little girl and thus has to rediscover her special purpose.

The tone is much darker than the original Disney cartoon but appropriate to the ruin the evil Red Queen has wreaked upon the land with her pet Jabberwocky, though those looking for the old colorful frolic may be disappointed. The cast is uniformly solid and Wasikowska reminiscent of a younger Gwyneth Paltrow if she was less tubucular and you didn't want to punch her in the face half the time. Depp is Depp though I'm getting a little tired of his mannered madness; it's starting to show seams like Robin Williams when he wore out his welcome. Danny Elfman's score is the usual orchestral circus music he can write in his sleep; all bombast but no memorable melodies.

The 3D effects are OK, but no match for Avatar's revolutionary FX, and hardly needed to sell the detailed look of Burton's milieu. If there is a problem with the film it's that the script leave Alice too passive for too long before she finally accepts her destiny and puts on her hot armor to slay the Jabberwocky. (Not a spoiler; you think she was gonna die?) There is one shot in the battle which is simply brilliant - it's in slow-motion and has the coolest hero pose I've seen outside of a comic book; you'll know it when you see it.

Score: 8/10. Catch a 3D matinee or buy the Blu-ray.

While I liked it more than I expected, my girlfriend LURVED it, so there's another viewpoint.


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