Friday, March 5, 2010

Movie with Abe: Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland
Directed by Tim Burton
Released March 5, 2010

Everyone knows the story of Alice in Wonderland. Even if the details are a bit foggy, the general gist of the fairy tale and the main players in the story should be known to most moviegoers. There are so many different versions out there, beginning with the original book by Lewis Caroll in 1865 and even as recently envisioned as this past fall with a SyFy miniseries. After countless variations on the same tale, why not be late for this very important date? Fortunately, the wild imagination of one Tim Burton and a slew of smartly cast actors make this Wonderland worth visiting.

As usual, Alice’s trip to Wonderland begins after she finds herself hopelessly out of place in her own life. In this version, she continually insists that the world she has stumbled into is all a dream, and that she will survive whatever may cross her path because none of it is real. Familiar faces such as the White Rabbit and the Mad Hatter pop up and continue to tell her that she must fulfill her destiny, and it’s truly enjoyable and fun to identity those characters and know all along that Alice isn’t in fact dreaming and must eventually face the reality of this different world.

Through its reinterpretation by Burton, Wonderland is a colorful place with dazzling scenery and astonishing representations of token concepts such as the Red Queen and her kingdom. It’s an entirely magical world brimming with wonder, and even if Alice isn’t ready to accept it as truly existing, audiences can watch with amazement at the stunning visuals and visualization of this classic locale. Nothing is spared in the creation of this universe, and the three-dimensional animation helps to maximize the majesty of this place and instill a sense of enchantment in everything that occurs within its bounds.

Mia Wasikowska, who broke out as a temperamental gymnast patient on HBO’s “In Treatment,” is a wonderful Alice who is more than able to hold her own against the likes of Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter. She is strong and hard-headed, but not overly so thanks to a carefully demonstrated compassionate and caring side. Helena Bonham Carter is hilarious as the bigheaded Red Queen, and the way she cries out “off with her head” is absolutely terrific. Supporting performances by Crispin Glover, Alan Rickman, and countless others create a wondrous ensemble that truly personifies and defines this particular Wonderland.

This new Alice isn’t entirely fresh, but there is a certain delight that comes with seeing the familiar done in a clever new way. The mix of performances, effects, energetic music, and directorial vision creates a wild and working mix. Lines like “I imagine six impossible things before breakfast” and “all the best people are” to ease the minds of those categorized as crazy are uttered magnificently, and though the execution of the story presumes some prior knowledge of this story on the part of the moviegoer, it’s still a great rendition full of life.


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