Oz in Wonderland

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Alice in Wonderland dreams up 4 Red Vines for being a great fantasy for girls of all ages

 Oz in Wonderland

What happens when you mix a dash of Depp, with a generous dose of Oz and let Tim Burton whip up a fabulous new dish?  You get Disney’s newest version of “Alice in Wonderland”!

First off, this isn’t just a re-hash of the familiar fairy-tale but a look at Alice’s adventure through Wonderland 13 years after her first mind-blowing visit.  Though Alice doesn’t realize she was ever really in Wonderland, she is haunted by dreams of her experience. As a young woman about to be engaged to a dolt of a nobleman, she runs off mid-proposal and suddenly finds herself falling down the same exact rabbit hole while chasing the same exact white rabbit. 

She begins to trace her old footsteps-large and small and meets up with the usual suspects who are unsure if she is the same Alice or not.  She is and once everyone agrees to that, it is revealed that she has a mission to complete on this visit.  A mission that sounds suspiciously like Dorothy’s in “The Wizard of Oz”.  This time around the rival kingdoms belong to the Red Queen (of hearts) and her sister the White Queen.

While the technology of 3D tends to be the star in these kinds of movies, I felt that it really took a back seat to the stellar acting and wonderful art direction.  The cast boasts perennial Burton favorites Helena Bonham Carter (the bulbous headed Red Queen), Alan Rickman (the Blue Caterpillar) and Johnny Depp (the Mad Hatter) but while Carter and Rickman gave truly remarkable, scene stealing characterizations, I confess I was a little disappointed by Depp’s.  It seemed like I saw elements of previous characters all mixed up into this one. Perhaps that is why it didn’t feel quite so defined.  And his look was way too reminiscent of the doorman from Oz.  Still, one of my complaints is that there wasn’t enough Depp in this movie.  I know, why would I want to see even more of a so-so performance?  What can I say?  I just love Johnny!

But it’s not a story about the Mad Hatter, it’s about Alice and newcomer Mia Wasikowska (who bears a striking resemblance to a young Gwyneth Paltrow) does a bang up job!  Alternately vulnerable and sassy, you are rooting for her at every turn.  And I am so pleased that young girls will have this wonderful role model to look up to.  The empowerment of Alice was a great twist to the old tale.

Other very noteworthy performances include the always wonderfully weird Crispin Glover as Stayne, the Queen’s number one Knave of Hearts and Stephen Fry as the Cheshire Cat.  And by the way, the cat is a work of art to get lost in every time he makes a whirlwind appearance.  Truly mesmerizing and fun.  The role of the White Queen isn’t much or maybe it just wasn’t much in the hands of Anne Hathaway.  Although I usually love her performances, this one didn’t do anything for me.  And her look was just too emo to be thought of as beautiful by any stretch of the imagination.  The Red Queen actually looked cuter in her own way and that should never be!

You know more and more movies are coming out in 3D and it’s funny but they seem to be catering to it less and less.  “Avatar” was a great example of how the technology was just ‘there’ but not exploited with overt in-your-face antics.  “Alice in Wonderland” is the same way.  But guess what?  It’s boring without those cheap thrills!  Someone needs to let the directors know that the audience loves those kinds of elements.  Come on!  We’re sitting there with these big goofy glasses, willing to endure a headache and we want stuff to fly at us!  We want to dodge and be tempted to reach out and grasp and gasp and laugh.  Give it to us, baby!!

I enjoyed “Alice in Wonderland” very much but somehow felt that it was lacking.  I wanted more Depp.  I wanted more creativity.  I wanted more 3D inspired thrills. With a story like “Alice and Wonderland”, Burton could have gone totally insane and it would have fit.  I couldn’t help but feel that somehow he was holding back.  And that card he had up his sleeve?  Well he folded before it ever got into play.

 

A preview of this movie was provided to me by the studio but it in no way effects my unbiased review.