Burton’s “Alice” is a blunderland of suck

The visionary director’s remake of “Alice in Wonderland” feels like a flogging of the ‘ol rabbit hole.

The charismatic Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry) can't save this production.
PHOTO COURTESY WALT DISNEY PICTURES

The charismatic Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry) can’t save this production. PHOTO COURTESY WALT DISNEY PICTURES

Tony Libera

âÄúAlice in WonderlandâÄù DIRECTED BY: Tim Burton STARRING: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter. RATED: PG SHOWING AT: Area theaters, tomorrow, March 5. Tim Burton performed a clever trick when making his rendition of âÄúCharlie and the Chocolate Factory.âÄù Instead of trying to remake âÄúWilly Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,âÄù he went back to the source, structuring his film on author Roald DahlâÄôs original text and distinguishing his film from the unmatchable âÄô70âÄôs classic. One would assume heâÄôd make a similar move with âÄúAlice in Wonderland,âÄù but instead Burton does the opposite, departing from Lewis CarrollâÄôs work to create a film that heavily alters the authorâÄôs world. This âÄúAlice in WonderlandâÄù presents a 19-year-old Alice (Mia Wasikowska), who is an unwilling recipient of a wealthy lordâÄôs marriage proposal. ItâÄôs not that the lord is off-putting (though he is); sheâÄôs more concerned with fanciful dreams and unladylike acts, like going out sans corset. Once down the rabbit hole, it turns out the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) has usurped the White QueenâÄôs (Anne Hathaway) throne with an unstoppable dragon called the Jabberwocky, and now rules Wonderland with bigheaded fervor. Her servant, the Knave of Hearts (Crispin Glover), finds a prophecy saying Alice will slay the Jabberwocky and restore peace to the land, so naturally she must be destroyed. This altered plot makes it hard to get our bearings, especially when weâÄôre told the events prior to AliceâÄôs return are different from every âÄúAlice in WonderlandâÄù currently in existence. WeâÄôre essentially getting a sequel without a predecessor, which leads to a lot of unnecessary confusion. To make matters worse, the new plot feels more C.S. Lewis than Lewis Carroll. ThereâÄôs a draconian queen, a prophecy about a messianic human from another world and repetitive action sequences involving anthropomorphic animals and ancient weapons. The action-adventure folly thrown onscreen is largely attributable to screenwriter Linda Woolverton, who tries molding Alice into a dynamic, rebellious heroine. Displaying AliceâÄôs newfound skills in trade routes and swordsmanship feels distracting and slightly preachy in a tale that celebrates nonsense. With each new film Burton directs, he dives deeper into the mixed bag of CGI, and now heâÄôs using 3-D, too. The visuals are not entirely disappointing âÄî the Cheshire Cat is a noteworthy exception. But, as dark and quirky as the film looks, thereâÄôs a certain spark missing overall, a humanity that permeated his early work. If thereâÄôs a saving grace to this movie, itâÄôs undoubtedly the acting. Johnny Depp leads the field with his methed-out-Elijah-Wood Hatter portrayal, toning down the 1951 versionâÄôs manic lisp and jumping back and forth between flamboyance and a feral Scottish brogue. Too bad the script gets distracted penning him to have contrived valiant motives. Only the Cheshire Cat remains untainted. He looks like a dream with his glowing blue fur and post-evaporation smoke trails. As he floats along with airy nonchalance, he betrays his sinister smile with feline swagger. Sadly, Depp and a sly cat are not enough to save the day. This attempt at âÄúAlice in WonderlandâÄù was undone from the beginning, the result of a stock script centered on drastic textual changes. ItâÄôs understandable that Burton and company would be reluctant to do yet another âÄúAlice in WonderlandâÄù remake, but with a story so different from the original, the question becomes, why bother with Alice at all? 2/5 Stars