Sunday, 4 July 2010

In Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland there are no star performers apart from the director, who creates here a fantasy of slightly less-than-epic proportions that is peopled by wonderful characters that exhibit their creator's deep personal whimsy and charming individuality.

But the story, alas, has all the curiousness of a Dungeons-and-Dragons contest, all the originality of a video game for teen boys. It's a pure good-vs-evil play with twisted malice on the one hand against sanity and reasonableness on the other. The books that form the basis of the screenplay are far more disturbing on both sides of the equation.

No, all the good stuff resides in the odd little characters Burton dreams up in his odd little head. This is a decent enough achievement in itself, but I can't rate the movie higher than a solid "Well done".

There's the voice of Alan Rickman as the Caterpillar - a snoozy, slightly boozy street-tout drawl with ageing editor highlights. There's Johnny Depp as the dashing, oddball Mad Hatter. There's Helena Bonham Carter as the malicious and greedy but less-then-terrifying Red Queen. And there's Anne Hathaway as the prim, precious and prudent White Queen (she's so campily white her hands are permanently raised in surprise).

And then there's the heroine: Alice herself. Mia Wasikowska plays her straight. I think this is necessary due to the character of the original Alice and due to the whacky energy of all the surrounding players. You need a bit of bread to go with all the strange cheeses.

And the plot is equally deadpan: a routine mustering of armies, and plain-old clash of swords, and a run-of-the-mill fearsome beast that must be slain by the eternally viruous Champion. Alice steps into the role with aplomb but it all gets so deadly ernest and adrenaline-filled you wish the contest had been concieved to play out on the croquet lawn instead of the battlefield.

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