Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Film review: Alice in Wonderland (2010), directed by Tim Burton

aliceinwonderland2010When Alice Kingsleigh is a little girl, she has strange dreams. When she’s older, the free-spirited young woman she has turned in to is taken by her mother (Lindsay Duncan) to be engaged to a drippy young lord (Leo Bill).

Alice (Mia Wasikowska) keeps seeing strange animals, and runs off after a white rabbit (voiced by Michael Sheen) … and then she falls down a rabbit-hole.

What a peculiar new world she finds herself in! It’s just like the dreams she used to have when she was little, in fact. But surely where she is now is just a dream? And if it’s a dream, she should come to no harm at all, right? Even when the big-headed Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) wants her head … or at least the head of the Real Alice, which Alice might not be. Or is she?

Also starring Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, Anne Hathaway as the White Queen, Crispin Glover as Stayne (the Knave of Hearts), Matt Lucas as Tweedledee and Tweedledum, Tim Pigott-Smith as Lord Ascot; with the voices of Stephen Fry as the Cheshire Cat, Alan Rickman as the Blue Caterpillar, Barbara Windsor as the Dormouse, Paul Whitehouse as the March Hare, Timothy Spall as Bayard the dog, Imelda Staunton as Tall Flower Faces and Christopher Lee as the Jabberwocky.

The first thing to say about this film is that it’s a visual spectacle. Wonderland is realised in a flurry of bright colours, and there’s definitely a very Burtonesque feel to how everything looks. I’m not sure why all the humans were made-up to have dark rings around their eyes, as if the entire cast were adrenally fatigued.

At times, it felt more like the focus was on playing with the size of Mia Wasikowska and her clothes than telling a story. It’s disjointed. On the other hand, it’s not as if the books about Alice are particularly coherent either. It goes from Alice running away from a horrid marriage proposal to her exploring Wonderland, to her being the fabled beastslayer, which she doesn’t want to be.

On the plus side, Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter is as brilliant as Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen. Both are magnificent, but then, there are really no options for the opposite. They are brilliant actors, no doubt about it.

The film in general, however, is that it’s great to look at, but there’s something missing. Style over substance? Still, it’s fun, quirky and delightful and well worth a watch. If nothing else than because Stayne reminds me of Guy of Gisborne from BBC’s Robin Hood, and that’s not bad.

3.9 out of 5 teapots.

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