Here are two reviews from two giants in the film industry: The Hollywood Reporter and Variety.
"Alice in Wonderland -- Film Review"
February 25th, 2010
The Hollywood Reporter
February 25th, 2010
The Hollywood Reporter
Bottom Line: Truly, madly wonderful.
Not that there was any doubt that, when it came to restaging the 1865 Lewis Carroll classic for a 21st century sensibility, Tim Burton would be the man for the job.
But even the filmmaker's trademark winsomely outlandish style doesn't prepare you for the thoroughly enjoyable spectacle that is his "Alice in Wonderland."
A fantastical romp that proves every bit as transporting as that movie about the blue people of Pandora, his "Alice" is more than just a gorgeous 3D sight to behold.
Armed with a smartly reshaped but still reverential script by Linda Woolverton ("Beauty and the Beast," "The Lion King"), Burton has delivered a subversively witty, brilliantly cast, whimsically appointed dazzler that also manages to hit all the emotionally satisfying marks.
Disney won't have to consume any little cakes in glass boxes in order for the resulting worldwide boxoffice to reach colossal heights.
That's a given for this PG-rated (blame it on that smoking caterpillar) release, which also should emerge as an early, cross-category Oscar contender.
No longer a wide-eyed child, Alice Kingsleigh (a pitch-perfect Mia Wasikowska) is now an easily distracted 19-year-old who seems hopelessly out of sync with her muted Victorian surroundings.
Dodging a garden-party marriage proposal from the dorky son of a lord and lady, Alice instead opts to take off after a pocket watch-clutching rabbit (voiced by Michael Sheen), giving those 3D glasses their first major workout as she plunges deeper and deeper into Underland.
Although she doesn't realize it, Alice has been down this particular rabbit hole before, when she was a much younger, more spirited girl.
But before she's able to get back in touch with her "muchness," she'll bond with a mercury-poisoned Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp, in another blissfully out-there tragicomic performance) and butt heads with the tyrannical Iracebeth (a never-better Helena Bonham Carter, who is an absolute scream of a Red Queen).
Whether they were required to spend quality time in front of a greenscreen or were totally CGI creations, all the usual suspects, from the rotund Tweedledee and Tweedledum (Matt Lucas times two) to the disembodied Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry) to the fearsome Jabberwocky (the great Christopher Lee), are present and brilliantly accounted for in collaboration with special effects master Ken Ralston.
Although Carroll purists might pooh-pooh some of the script's more radical alterations, like bringing Alice up to legal age, the shift helps hit home the film's welcome message of female empowerment.
Ultimately, it's the visual landscape that makes Alice's newest adventure so wondrous, as technology has finally been able to catch up with Burton's endlessly fertile imagination.
Also taking their cues from John Tenniel's original illustrations, Robert Stromberg's fanciful production design and costume designer Colleen Atwood's ever-inspired wardrobe selection help make it quite the trippy trip.
Opens: Friday, March 5 (Disney)
Production: Roth Films, the Zanuck Co., Team Todd, Tim Burton Prods.
Cast: Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Crispin Glover, Matt Lucas, Stephen Fry, Alan Rickman, Michael Sheen, Timothy Spall, Christopher Lee Director: Tim Burton
Screenwriter: Linda Woolverton
Executive producers: Peter Tobyansen, Chris Lebenzon
Producers: Richard D. Zanuck, Joe Roth, Suzanne Todd, Jennifer Todd
Director of photography: Dariusz Wolski
Production designer: Robert Stromberg
Music: Danny Elfman
Costume designer: Colleen Atwood
Editor: Chris Lebenzon
Rated PG, 109 minutes
"Alice in Wonderland"
February 25th, 2010
February 25th, 2010
A Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures release of a Walt Disney Pictures presentation of a Roth Films/Zanuck Co. production. Produced by Richard D. Zanuck, Suzanne Todd, Jennifer Todd, Joe Roth. Executive producers, Peter Tobyansen, Chris Lebenzon. Co-producers, Katterli Frauenfelder, Tom Pertzman. Directed by Tim Burton. Screenplay, Linda Woolverton, based on the books "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass" by Lewis Carroll.
Mad Hatter - Johnny Depp
Alice - Mia Wasikowska
Red Queen - Helena Bonham Carter
White Queen - Anne Hathaway
Stayne -- Knave of Hearts - Crispin Glover
Tweedledee/Tweedledum - Matt Lucas
Helen Kingsleigh - Lindsay Duncan
Lady Ascot - Geraldine James
Lord Ascot - Tim Pigott-Smith
Charles Kingsleigh - Martin Csokas
Hamish - Leo Bill
Aunt Imogene - Frances de la Tour
Margaret Kingsleigh - Jemma Powell
Lowell - John Hopkins
Absolem, the Blue Caterpillar - Alan Rickman
Cheshire Cat - Stephen Fry
White Rabbit - Michael Sheen
Bayard - Timothy Spall
Dormouse - Barbara Windsor
Jabberwocky - Christopher Lee
Dodo Bird - Michael Gough
Executioner - Jim Carter
Tall Tower Faces - Imelda Staunton
March Hare - Paul Whitehouse
"You've lost your muchness," Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter remarks to his newly shrunken teenage friend, and much the same could be said of Tim Burton in the wake of his encounter with a Victorian-era heroine of imaginative powers even wilder than his own. Quite like what one would expect from such a match of filmmaker and material and also something less, this "Alice in Wonderland" has its moments of delight, humor and bedazzlement. But it also becomes more ordinary as it goes along, building to a generic battle climax similar to any number of others in CGI-heavy movies of the past few years. A humongous Disney promo effort and inevitable curiosity about the first post-"Avatar" 3D extravaganza will pull wondrous early B.O. numbers, although long-term forecast could become clouded by the imminent arrival of further high-profile kid-friendly features.
It all seemed like such a natural fit -- Burton and Lewis Carroll, Depp as the key component in fiction's most eccentric tea party, and 3D put at the service of a story offering unlimited visual possibilities. Not that it's gone all wrong; not entirely. But for all its clever design, beguiling creatures and witty actors, the picture feels far more conventional than it should; it's a Disney film illustrated by Burton, rather than a Burton film that happens to be released by Disney.
Although it draws heavily upon both Carroll's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" (published in 1865) and "Through the Looking Glass" (1871), the script by Linda Woolverton (a Disney standard-bearer with a major hand in "Beauty and the Beast," "The Lion King" and "Mulan") crucially skews the material by advancing the leading lady's age from pre-pubescence to 19. The main upshot of the change is that this trip to Underland, as it's referred to here, becomes Alice's second, not first. The not-inconsiderable benefit is that enables Alice to be played by Mia Wasikowska, an actress of willowy, Gwyneth Paltrowesque beauty but, more important here, of a pale but powerful resolve that confers upon the picture any gravity it may possess.
After an over-the-rooftops cinematic entry into London that could as easily have alighted at the residence of Sweeney Todd (or, for that matter, Ebenezer Scrooge), a delirious little Alice awakens from yet another nightmare to ask her father, "Do you think I've gone 'round the bend?" To which he offers the encouraging, tone-setting reply, "All the best people are."
Thirteen years later, in an amusing framing story invented by Woolverton, a pale, sulky Alice is put up for an arranged marriage by her widowed mother (the enchantingly mordant Lindsay Duncan) with the twitty son of an aristocratic family. The lavish would-be engagement party quickly and appealingly establishes Alice as an impudent contrarian with a mind of her own; when, in front of hundreds of elegant guests, she is meant to accept the fatuous lad's proposal, she cries out, "I think I need a moment!" and promptly follows a white rabbit down a hole.
Just as, at such a transformative interlude, "The Wizard of Oz" switched from black-and-white to color, this should have marked the point when "Please Put on 3D Glasses!" flashed onscreen and everything took on an all-consuming, eye-popping look (the 3D in the garden party sequence is actually banal, even poorly judged). In fact, Alice enters a verdant, overgrown world that undeniably resembles "Avatar's" Pandora and encounters at least one creature, a skeptical caterpillar, that actually is blue.
As things get "curiouser and curiouser," she also meets the round, argumentative twins Tweedledee and Tweedledum; the vaporous and grinning Cheshire Cat; the manic March Hare; Depp's Mad Hatter, with saucer eyes, Bozo-like red hair and gap teeth that bring Madonna to mind; and, inevitably, the fearsome Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), who spares Alice from her favorite edict -- "Off with their heads!" -- because she, like all the others, needs to know if this is "the" Alice who visited so many years before.
Script arguably needed a narrative backbone of a sort not to be found in the episodic books, and Woolverton has obliged. Unfortunately, it's one that turns "Alice" into a formulaic piece of work, which Carroll's creation was anything but. Climactic action setpiece, with an unlikely young warrior taking on a fearsome beast while gobs of CGI soldiers clash, smacks of "The Lord of the Rings," "Harry Potter," "The Golden Compass," "The Chronicles of Narnia" and any number of other such recent ventures. Thus does "Alice" become normalized, a tilt Burton is surprisingly incapable of opposing.
A jaw-dropping coda pivots on a "visionary" character's forthcoming voyage to open up trade with China, provoking musings about Disney's rationale for this sort of corporate encomium to a vast young market, as well as thoughts of a never-to-be-made sequel set among 19th-century Chinese as inscrutable and combative as the population of Underland.
To be sure, the design, effects, makeup and technical work is of a high order. Other than Alice, the most memorable characters are the wonderful hunting dog Bayard and the elusive Cheshire Cat, superbly voiced by Timothy Spall and Stephen Fry, respectively.
Among thesps whose faces can be discerned, Bonham Carter authoritatively takes dudgeon to a new high as the Red Queen. Unfortunately, Anne Hathaway is miscast as her sister, the White Queen, as her white hair and black eyebrows look weird and she's not temperamentally suited to the role's benign superciliousness. And Depp is Depp, slip-siding among moods, accents, looks, rhythms and keys like a jazz player on his own wavelength, to disarming, if transient, effect.
Camera (Technicolor; Deluxe domestic prints, Technicolor international prints, 3D), Dariusz Wolski; editor, Chris Lebenzon; music, Danny Elfman; production designer, Robert Stromberg; supervising art directors, Stefan Dechant, Andrew Nicholson (U.K.); art directors, Todd Cherniawsky, Andrew L. Jones, Mike Stassi, Christina Wilson, Timothy Browning (U.K.); set designers, C. Scott Baker, Jackson Bishop, Tammy Lee, Jeff Markwith, Richard Mays, David Moreau, Anne Porter; set decorators, Karen O'Hara, Peter Young (U.K.); costume designer, Colleen Atwood; sound (Dolby Digital/SDDS/DTS), William B. Kaplan; sound designer, Steve Boeddeker; supervising sound editors, Boeddeker, David Evans; re-recording mixers, Michael Semanick, Tom Johnson; senior visual effects supervisor, Ken Ralston; visual effects supervisors, Sean Phillips, Carey Villegas; visual effects, Sony Pictures Imageworks; additional visual effects, Sassoon Film Design, CafeFX, Matte World Digital, In-Three; animation supervisor, David Schaub; conceptual designer, Dermot Powell; makeup designer, Valli O'Reilly; stunt coordinator, Garrett Warren; line producer (U.K.), Mary Richards; associate producer, Derek Frey; assistant director, Katterli Frauenfelder; casting, Susie Figgis. Reviewed at Disney Studios, Burbank, Feb. 23, 2010. MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 108 MIN.