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Rated 3.05 stars
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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Johnny without Depth
by Misha Zubarev

When going to see a Tim Burton film, I expect to be entertained by Burton-esque characters and memorable performances, especially by likes of Johnny Depp. But do Burton and Depp deliver in Alice in Wonderland?

After watching this film, I must say it’s a pleasant visual ride through Wonderland. The story takes us from the beginning, showing Alice’s dream-maker genius father who then passed on, and comes to the present where Alice has to face the challenge of her family trying to wed her to an aristocratic bore of a man named Hamish (Leo Bill), the son of Alice’s late father’s business partner.

The film flawlessly moves from one act to the next, showing the motivation of each character. For instance, Bayard the Bloodhound (voice by Timothy Spall), is sent to find Alice by the evil Red Queen, and in exchange he’s promised freedom for him and his pups. The stakes are high for Bayard to locate Alice, but when he does, he can’t help giving in to her charm and persistence.

There are plenty of fun characters here, such as Tweedledee and Tweedledum (voice by Matt Lucas), the Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry), the White Rabbit (Michael Sheen), and many others. Mia Wasikowska is also quite charming as Alice. She has a natural persona which is a pleasure to watch on screen. (It’s rumored Wasikowska beat Lindsay Lohan to the part.) However, while adorable to watch, her character fails to inspire curiosity and imagination. She goes from scene to scene, wandering about, trying to resolve the conflicts while displaying little insight and appreciation for the environment she’s in, so I couldn’t help questioning if she really had a strong internal bond to Wonderland.

Burton himself admitted that to him "[Alice in Wonderland] was always a girl wandering around from one crazy character to another, and I never really felt any real emotional connection." His goal was to give the pic "some framework of emotional grounding" and "to try and make Alice feel more like a story as opposed to a series of events.”

An enjoyable element of Alice in Wonderland involves the positive message the film sends to its target audience: “We are all in charge of our own life and destiny, and nothing or no one can stand in our way.” That message is alluded to every time Alice faces an external conflict or obstacle, and when such obstacles challenged her, she says something like [paraphrasing] “…this is my dream, and I can do anything. Nothing will stop me.”

However, the character we all came to see on the big screen is undoubtedly the Mad Hatter, played by Johnny Depp. With his crazy green eyes and lunatic persona, the Mad Hatter contains all the elements needed for a grand performance. Unfortunately, Depp failed to make a memorable impression on me in this role. 

Still, with Alice in Wonderland, Burton definitely gives us a visually beautiful cinematic work. However, watching the film in 3D doesn’t add or take away from the experience. With the exception of Alice’s fall into the “Underland,” I don’t think seeing it in 3D would make it better.

Just like the excitement of a first visit to Vegas, after this movie ends, your money is gone -- and you leave feeling you've experienced a  a cheap thrill with little of value to remember.   

(Released by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures and rated “PG” for fantasy action/violence involving scary images and situations and a smoking caterpillar.)

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