22. Alice In Wonderland

Speaking of muddled, boring madness…

There’s a lot to like about Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland. Say what you will about Burton, the man’s a visionary, and one of the few filmmakers working today whose works truly double as actual pieces of art. If you were to give me a choice of filmmakers to re-imagine Lewis Carroll’s playful children’s book, Burton would’ve been right at the top.

But sometimes Burton gets so tied up in whimsy, in quirk, in invention, that he misses the big picture. So instead of the cohesive, imaginative storytelling that marks his best work (Edward Scissorhands, Big Fish, The Nightmare Before Christmas, etc.), we get a swiftly disintegrating film that never seems to quite rise from being a collection of clever new ideas. While I enjoyed much of the invention – particularly the concept of the Jabberwocky poem being an unfulfilled prophesy – I left the theater feeling unfulfilled.

Still, it’s not until the end of the film, when Alice’s quest dissolves into poorly-staged massive battle against a dull gray sky, that the wheels fully come off. A less than fearsome Jabberwocky appears, and Mia Wasikowska battles it in a somewhat half-hearted manner. I'm not saying they skimped on the weapons training, but at no point did I say to myself, "boy, that vorpal sword really is going snicker-snack!" The CGI creatures run aimlessly across a bare battlefield in poorly-visualized 3D, as the story fumbles around for a conclusion, and I’m left staring blankly at the screen, wondering where all the fun went.