Tim Burton doing Lewis Carroll with the help of Johnny Depp should have produced something fresh, off-kilter, witty, and wondrous. Instead what we’ve got is a less-than-engaging story that attracts the eye but fails to capture the heart.
Alice Kingsley falls into the rabbit hole for the second time just after being proposed to by a sniffy aristocrat. And this time Wonderland is in trouble; it has been waiting for her. Not only that, but it isn’t Wonderland at all, but Underland; the inhabitants inform Alice that she has mispronounced. The wonder is literally gone from Wonderland – and that turns out to be true on another level: the wonder, as well as much of the wit, is missing.
- There are some token plays on language, and allusions to Alice’s previous adventure in Wonderland.
- Stephen Fry as the Cheshire Cat, Alan Rickman as the Caterpillar, and Helena Bonham-Carter as the Red Queen are enjoyable. Mia Wasikowska does just fine with the material she’s given, and Anne Hathaway is interesting as the White Queen. Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter may look too clownish for some tastes, but he manages to become a fascinating character to add to the Depp repertoire.
- Shortly after Alice returns to Wonder/Underland, we know what is going to happen. Everything is drawn out for us at the start of the adventure – and so the adventure feels little more than going through the motions. Bad monarch has taken over. Hero (in this case, heroine) is destined to save kingdom/queendom. Heroine meets quirky characters. Heroine goes undercover into bad monarch’s castle. Heroine finds fabled sword. Heroine escapes. Heroine doubts her destiny. Heroine slays monster. Heroine returns home wiser.
- There are a few dead spots, in which there is simply too large a pause between lines and actions – especially problematic in a 108-minute film.
- The feminist theme falls flat. After returning home, Alice tells her sister, "This is my life." I'll decide what I'll do with it, she declares. And then she proceeds to go into international trade – this is the aftermath of her Wonderland adventure?
“You’ve lost your muchness,” laments the Mad Hatter to Alice. One could say the same to Burton’s latest offering.