Saturday, April 10, 2010

The BC Review: Alice in Wonderland

My apologies for my somewhat late posting, things became a bit busier than usual these last few weeks. But as my husband has informed me, I now owe him (and you!) a couple of reviews! So here goes...

While enjoying a day off from work a couple weeks ago, I took a trip over to the Hoffman multiplex in Alexandria to see an afternoon matinee of Walt Disney's Alice in Wonderland in 3D IMAX. Despite my anticipation for this film, I have to be honest and say it did not quite live up to my expectations. Of course, in true Disney fashion there were funny, loveable characters (i.e. Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum), intermixed with some somewhat eccentric and therefore, exciteable ones (I will get to the Helena Bonam Carter's portrayal of the Red Queen and Johnny Depp's interpretaton of the Madd Hatter later). But the overall plot and direction of the film was just so-so. Perhaps it is the unavoidable comparison I find myself making between Disney's Alice and Cameron's AVATAR? To be sure, both included some pretty amazing animation, but AVATAR certainly beat out Alice (in my opinion) for creativity and the pure fun factor. Watching Alice in the middle of the day I felt myself bored with the plot and at times, glancing at my watch... a scene that never occured during the two times I sat through the 3-hour Cameron masterpiece.

As my husband can attest, I am an avid fan of Mr. Depp. And his portrayal of the Madd Hatter, as with all of his crazy, kooky, characters, left me wanting more. Love him or hate him, Depp's contributions to almost everything he's in makes the film what it is and well, can succeed in saving even the most dreadful of stories. Obviously drawing from his Jack Sparrow and Willy Wonka characterizations, Depp once again gives us a loveable, fun, sometimes a bit unnerving, and at the same time, vulnerable Hatter. Indeed, the vulnerability displayed in Alice is key to Depp's genious. He gives us a Hatter once an employee of the White Queen, given to entertain the residents of the kingdom, now dejected and soured in the face of the Red Queen's tyranny. To be sure, the Hatter is looking for someone (i.e. Alice) to save him from himself, and in the end, he proves to take a much bigger part in saving himself.

I am also a big fan of Helena Bonham Carter and she once again leaves the audience wanting more of the oversized head and diminunitive body of the tyranical Red Queen. It is no surprise she was cast in this film due to the film's direction by her husband, Tim Burton, but she plays the character with a not-so-quiet dignity and lends at times a comical performance to the dark plot.

On the opposite side of course is the Red Queen's beautiful, prodigal sister, the White Queen (played by Anne Hathaway). Hathaway is OK, but not great in this role. Although I am also usually a fan of Hathaway's and especially these days as she's expanded her craft to include dynamic character portrayals as found in Rachel Getting Married and even Brokeback Mountain it is difficult to see her genius in Alice. This is likely due to two factors:

1. Not enough screen time
2. An extremely narrow character

The scenes of the White Queen are extremely limited in the film. Whether that was intentional or just a result of the cutting room floor is uncertain. Regardless, the character is bound by her overly sympathetic, kind, Glenda-the-Good Witch exterior. There appears little room for Hathaway to expand her character outside the box; a frustrating event.

I will end this review now so as not to wear you out with my commentary (in the hopes you will come back for another!) Ha ha. If you're looking for a fun, strict plot line 3D animated adventure, Alice has lots in store for you. Just don't go with the intention of witnessing dynamic characters.

The Bee Charmer rating: B