Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland is a film so half-assed, so slap-dash, so unbearably boring that I can't even care enough to fully concentrate on writing this review. I am distracting myself with the Oscars - and finding even the interpretative dance sequence to the soundtrack of The Hurt Locker miles more entertaining than the tepid trash Burton is peddling as an adaptation of Lewis Carroll's fascinating classic.
The self-consciously wacky director takes a tale brimming with images, historical and cultural references, poems, songs and extraordinary invention, reduces it to a handful of glib catchphrases, then repeats these ad nauseam - while constantly informing us of what has happened, what will happen and what is happening in the style of one of those reality TV shows desperately low on interesting content. Think of all the bits you love from the book, or the Disney cartoon even; well you won't find them here - Burton instead sees fit to strike out the original story and replace it with a CliffsNotes sequel.
Alice is a rebellious young woman unhappily readying for an arranged marriage within the British aristocracy when she falls down the rabbit hole. Burton makes a Wonderland experience that's essentially a semester of Feminism 101 combined with a seminar on the class system. Wait, that actually makes it sound far meatier than it is. This should have been Tim Burton's dream project, but he manages to suck all the life out of the 3D technology, something that, until now, seemed to be Hollywood's salvation. What James Cameron giveth, Burton taketh away and then some. There is no "wonder" here, no joy - the fantasy world is underpopulated and undernourished.
Burton is so eager to reach his dramatic, entirely fabricated conclusion that the White Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat and the Dormouse are presented as soulless puppets, all handily simplified down for the collection of toys and T-shirts to be sold at Hot Topic. The dialogue is shockingly dumb, doing away with 98 percent of what the book offered. Burton's original stuff is derivative weird-lite. While he has a wealth of source material, he dilutes it to the point of being palatable to people who laugh at Coke ads. Johnny Depp, used to working his way around Burton's sets, holds his own. He refuses to submit to all the foolishness and, as such, provides the one note of human feeling.
Potions make Alice smaller, cake makes her bigger; the Red Queen has a large head; the Mad Hatter does a special dance - and that's all there is to this film. It's like it was too perfect for Burton; he figured it would just film itself. Well, it didn't. We could chalk it up to Disney-ification, but the film's writer, Linda Woolverton, managed to effectively pen The Lion King - even the Disney cartoon version of Alice is far, far more memorable. Burton gives his wife, Helena Bonham Carter, more space than she deserves. Playing the spoiled brat Red Queen, she's allowed to almost outshine Alice.
I'm surprised to have managed to write this much without falling asleep, but am energized by outrage at Sandra Bullock winning the Best Actress award over Gabourey Sidibe. Oh well, I give up.
Alice in Wonderland
Starring Mia Wasikowska, Helen Bonham Carter, Johnny Depp. Directed by Tim Burton. Rated PG