16 April 2010

Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland

For all of the wild, 3D effects, eccentric characters and sly nods to its source material, the highlights of director Tim Burton's take on Alice in Wonderland are the performances of his two favorite actors Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter.

Depp, starring for Burton for the seventh time, is the Mad Hatter, whose shattered mental state is reflected in his physical appearance perpetually shellshocked, tattered clothes and hair apparently styled by Carrot Top. Depp, as is his wont, loses himself in the role and emerges with a Hatter who is as mad as ever yet more fleshed out and human than we have seen before.

Bonham Carter, Burton's longtime partner and the mother of his children, appears in her sixth film for the director. She is the nefarious Red Queen, she of the bulbous head, who controls the dreaded Jabberwocky, keeping the inhabitants of Underland in a perpetual state of fear.

The film, from a screenplay by Linda Woolverton (The Lion King), is more animated than live action, its voice cast featuring more Burton veterans, such as Christopher Lee, Michael Gough, Alan Rickman and Timothy Spall.

The plot, a sequel of sorts to Lewis Carroll's two 19th-century novels, concerns a 19-year-old Alice (Mia Waskikowska) returning, though she thinks her first visit was a dream, to Underland where she has been prophesied to slay the Jabberwocky.

It's Depp's sympathetic Hatter and Bonham Carter's despotic, darkly humorous Red Queen who draw us into the conflict and give us a stake in its outcome.

Grade: B

(Rated PG for fantasy action/violence involving scary images and situations, and for a smoking caterpillar. 108 minutes.)

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