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ALICE IN WONDERLAND (2010) - review

Director - Tim Burton

Genre - Fantasy Adventure

"When that day comes i shall futterwacken…vigorously."

So okay. Meaning this to appear in another feature i was writing and having watched it halfway through 2010, i decided to make it a stand alone review for two reasons. The first being the simple fact that almost everyone, critics and audience alike, seemed to think it was a nothing special movie, a so so attempt at the famous Lewis Carroll story, and not really much of a worthy addition to the movie world. And secondly - that after re-watching it a second time the other night on blu, it suddenly hit me just how very-fucking-good a movie it was - not a masterpiece by any means - but a fun, well crafted slice of entertainment that should be seen by anyone who happened to miss it the first time round. 

So why do i dig it so much? It is uniformly, a kids movie after all, a simple story about a young girl who falls into a fantasy world where shrinking potions, talking animals, smoking caterpillars, playing card soldiers and crazy ass humans are merely normal things. Not your average violent, guns blazing, sharp scripted actioneer then. And no sign of Bruce Willis that’s true. What it does boast however is one of the most original directors working today and the sheer awesomness of Mr. Johnny Depp…

Taking it’s time to get going - but gladly so - we are soon tumbling down the rabbit hole with some forgettable and dodgy looking 3D (no surprise there) before Alice - played extremely well by Aussie actress Mia Wasikowska reminding me a lot of a cousin of mine - arrives at the tea party with a crazy hare, a fighting mouse and a mad Hatter. Who slowly wakes up, looks around bewilderingly and Depp comes to life.

As does the movie.

And from that point on - i was into it. Smiling away at every goddamn frame he was in. See - i gotta say - the dude’s a motherfucking genius. Pretty much every character he inhibits, always comes off as supercool. And with his interpretation of the Hatter it’s no exception. Channeling parts of the zaniness of Jack Sparrow and the creepiness of Willy Wonka, he plays him not just crazy, but as a man who’s lost his mind and can’t control the strange outbursts that grab him. With a whispering trick when it all gets too much, his dialect ranging from Scottish to American whenever he desires it, Depp delivers an emotional, angry, heroic performance that was at times both sad and both amusing.

Joining him in the mix are a role call of the usual suspects, lining up to star opposite one another in Burton’s movie. Stephen Fry deliver’s accordingly as the cheshire cat, Crispin Glover gives creepy once more to good effect, even though i wasn’t a huge fan of his odd CGI enabled walking - but maybe this was to help his character….I don’t know. Even Anne Hathaway who i’ve never been too bothered about, was good - with all her random hand movements and little touches of comedy. But it was, naturally, the performance of the director’s muse -Bonham Carter - that came a very close second in the quality stakes to Depp. Now a permanent fixture in every one of her partner’s films, HBC is again deliciously wicked, mental and amusing as the mad queen, talking like a child, shouting out orders with a comical lisp and sprouting randomness like “i need a pig here” for when she needs her foot stool. Recently i caught her on a late night chat show and it’s amazing just how awesome she is these days, coming out from when she was perceived as a period film type, to the way she talks, the clothes she wears and her very own devil may care attitute and individuality in a business that is anything but. For that she is too fucking cool and you gotta love her all the more.  

Overall though, it is Burton’s crazy ass darkly quirky vision that shines through. Equipping himself again admirably, and throwing everything he has into the production, it results in very much a Burtonesque take on Lewis Carroll’s imaginative world of nonsense. From the small touches like the monkey’s in the Queen’s court acting as table legs and the birds flying around the ceiling to support a chandelier, to his trademark twisted SLEEPY HOLLOW trees, broken windmills, eccentric performances and Danny Elfman. The very fact that a lot of the movie is computer assisted and is basically a fantastical place full of magical creatures, Jabberwocky’s and strange looking men, the green screen work is really pretty good - with the actors seamlessly integrating themselves into their surroundings - and while not perfection, it’s amazing when you are grabbed by the story and have a genuine fucking interest with the characters, you tend not to scrutinise the way it’s been shot. Just look at PHANTOM MENACE. Actually don’t. Ever. No one should have to look at that again…excuse me for bringing it up. 

Still one of the few director’s with his own unique style that will not be compromised and a work aesthetic of delivering the goods you would expect, Burton is one of the great film makers. Using the latest cinematic tricks afforded to him to tell his story proper, he never forgets the importance of great characterisation and the emotion he can illicit from within. Like the ending to BATMAN RETURNS, when Keaton, mask ripped off, witnesses the death of the Penguin, the score building to a finale, this movie for me, never once forgets where the real story lies. That of the deep unrequited love for Alice that the Hatter holds to his heart, and his desire for her to stay with him in the ‘Underland’, as he knows deep down that even though he maybe as crazy as a mindfuck, somehow when she’s around, he becomes just that right side of sane. 

Clearly not up there with Burton’s best work, but most definitely an enjoyable slice of crazy, enhanced by some nice ideas, typically dark imagery and the outstanding performances of Bonham Carter and Johnny Depp. 

BEST BIT:

Hatter points to his head - “i don’t like it in here Alice, it’s terribly crowded”.

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