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Friday, March 5, 2010

Alice in Wonderland is a visual delight

Posted By on Fri, Mar 5, 2010 at 12:00 AM

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Alice in Wonderland, Tim Burton’s psychedelic 3-D take on Lewis Carroll’s timeless fantasy picks up 10 years after nine-year-old Alice first fell down the rabbit hole. When the all-grown-up Alice (Mia Wasikowska) tumbles down to Wonderland again, she finds the evil Red Queen (a scene-stealing Helena Bonham Carter, sporting a humongous CGI-enhanced head) in charge. She also discovers some old pals: a talking rabbit, a disappearing cat, a smoking caterpillar and Johnny Depp as the maddest hatter you’ve ever seen. The movie is a visual delight, with Wonderland’s sumptuous images popping from the screen (even without 3-D glasses). Burton flashes some of his gothic humor (the Red Queen uses a flamingo as a croquet mallet), and he goes wild with the talking animals and colorful scenery, undoubtedly inspired by a palette that isn’t filled with the usual dark and brooding tones. Wasikowska makes a terrific Alice, who’s wiser and sassier than her younger self. There’s spark and spunk to her performance, as she cuts through Wonderland’s madness with a furrowed brow and clear head. As ringleader of this kaleidoscopic circus, Depp is more reserved than he was in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the last time he and Burton collaborated on a children’s fantasy), but his lispy, zigzagging performance is every bit as mannered. But like many of Burton’s films, Alice in Wonderland feels a bit distant at times, as if the director can’t do genuine without a twist of ironic detachment. Alice could use a little heart. Still, this is the most fun he’s had onscreen lately. It’s an adventure that’s totally worth the trip down the hole. ***

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