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Utter Nonsense: Alice In Wonderland 2010 Film Review

Part One:  Anticipation

There is no doubt.  The very thought of combining the wit and "wonder" of Alice, the clever tongue-tangly-tingly "madness" of author Lewis Carroll, with the freakishly whimsical and abstract conjurings of film director Tim Burton sent me straight into a tizzy.  Yes, that's right, an actual tizzy!  When was the last time that happened to you?  I can only describe the experience as a head-spinning spasmodic shiver of delight.

However, I will admit this to you and no one else:  I had a second — no, an instant — well, perhaps more of a flash — of reservation.  You heard correct.  Me, a twinge of reservation about a Tim Burton project.  Balderdash!  Stuff and nonsense (as opposed to "nonsense and stuff")!  Poppycock!  Me, the ardent fan of this modern genius, having a slight twingient twitch of uncertainty?

Absolutely.  Because, you see, ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND and THROUGH THE LOOKING-GLASS rank as my all-time favorite tales!  Even a semi-sequel, a follow-up excursive romp down the rabbit-hole, would have to be handled with the utmost unbridled lunacy!  Is Tim Burton crazy enough, I had to ask, sufficiently insane to live up to the task?

You can see my dilemma.  Is anyone, really?

At this point it remains to be seen for I've not seen it yet.  And I've been Googly agoggle, sifting the internet for scraps tossed to the public, since first I heard the delicacy rumored!  As the recipe unfolded, ingredients stirred in, my appetite was more than whetted.  I was positively famished and drooling!

Trailers for the movie do give me hope.  Could it be that there will finally exist on film a piece of art worthy of the mental imageries from Carroll's Wonderland Looking-Glass world?  Excuse me a minute.  I must weep.  It's simply too much to envision.

Okay, I'm back.  Mind you, I have yet to see PAN'S LABYRINTH — for which my anticipation is enormous.  The fantasy film has yet to reach either network or cable T.V. by the date I am writing this.  (A quick peek at T.V. GUIDE for the night confirms it.)  That could change.  It could air at any moment.  I could be missing it right now!  T.V. GUIDE could be mistaken!  Sorry, I have to run . . .

It isn't on.  I checked every channel my cable package permits.  So in fairness, I cannot be the proper judge of whether the afore-mentioned phenomenon has occurred or not.  But I do have my doubts.  I know I said there is no doubt at the beginning.  That was in regard to something else.  This is another statement entirely.  Please try to keep up with the pace of my ramblings.

Nonetheless, I believe that if anyone could be capable of capturing Lewis Carroll's vibrant vivid imaginings on the silver screen, it would be Tim Burton.  Nothing personal, Mister Del Toro.  No offense, Messieurs Spielberg, Lucas, Cameron, Carpenter, and Jackson!  (What other directors do I revere?  I'm drawing a huge blank.  That's my mind for ya!  I've got termites in my belfry.  It used to be bats, but they were scared off by the gremlins and ghouls.  And the spooksters.  Then the termites moved in, along with some spiders.  It's getting pretty crowded upstairs.)

Sorry, I was lost in thought.  It's a wonder I have any room for thought, now that I think of it.

Well, that's all I wanted to say on the subject.  For now, at least.  I shall be waiting on pins and needles and nails and spikes and everything sharp to see the movie in precisely a week.  It will be only the second film I've viewed at a theater in more than a decade!  The first was INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL, of course.  How could I miss that?  Then I naturally wanted to see WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE because that was my first favorite book but alas, I missed the chance.

I simply cannot miss ALICE IN WONDERLAND, as projected by Tim Burton, starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway and Mia Wasikowska whom I had never even heard of before.  It has Christopher Lee in the cast.  I am giddy with expectation.  How could I not be?  This is a once-in-a-lifetime event!

 


Part Two:  The Reaction (In Other Words, My Review)

It's the morning after.  How do I feel?  Just fine, thank you for asking.  Except I need to review a film where the final credits made me cry.  That never happened before.  Why would credits bring me to tears?  I guess it was the emotional impact of two great minds colliding.  That must be it.  I'm not some nut who sobs for no reason.  I'm not quite ready for a strait-jacket.  (I said "quite".  Give me time.)

Here's the thing.  I stepped into the theater with my hopes loftier than a runaway kite.  Make that a balloon.  Can anything live up to that?  Probably not.  Was I impressed?  Indeed.  Was I elated?  Most decidedly.  Was I enchanted, swept into another world, the dreamscape of all things ALICE?  I certainly was.  Am I disappointed?  I think not.  I can't tell you for sure because my hopes were carried away, as I've stated.

Compared to the books, which are monuments in my estimation, the Tim Burton spectacle seems overall well-matched.  It captures most artfully the bewilderment and wonderment of Wonderland — actually called Underland we are informed in one of the witty touches that abound.  The director has woven a sumptuous authentic tribute to these timeless tales.  Though Tim Burton elements are pleasurably visible, every detail of the intricate picture oozes "Alice".  Tweedledee and Tweedledum have never been more Nursery Rhymish.  The Red Queen and her fat head are nimbly and numbskullishly crafted.  Mad Hatter with his tea-stained teeth and giggly exuberance lends an OZ-like camaraderie betwixt the haunting White Queen's diverse loyalists and the staid timid girl who has re-tumbled into their midst.

Computer graphics, costume and scenery designs are magnificent.  Danny Elfman's music alternately accentuates and resonates.  The humor is appropriately subtle in many cases, as opposed to gut-busting or crude.  Throughout there are wry amusements, entertaining moments.  The screenplay by Linda Woolverton is respectful to the source material, flowing and lively, if predictable.

In truth, there isn't much new to the plot, based on one of the most cherished of all childhood stories.  The movie is at once a follow-up and a retelling of the originals, which is tough to pull off, that draws the loose disjointed threads together into a quest, a brave mission for Alice in regaining the independent spirit and courage she appears to have lost after the death of her father.

There was a nifty contrast-comparison between the "real" world and the "illusional" world, between the upper and lower realms.  If you think about it, that was nicely symbolized by the main character's inner and exterior conflicts.  This grown-up Alice has grown-up concerns that pursue her as she flees the vagaries of her life in pursuit of the White Rabbit.

The film's fabric is stylishly wrought in rich colors and spooky undertones.  It is sophisticated enough to appeal to any age; I saw in the audience such evidence.  Beyond that, it was exquisitely rendered in both a digital three-dimensional format and the regular cinescopic perspective.  I watched the film in 3-D, but I am confident it would be equally lavish without these layers of depth-perception, and I look forward to viewing Burton's extraordinary vision with plain eyesight in the future.

As with most good films, I felt it sped by too soon.  The ending hints at the possibility of a subsequent story, one in which Burton's own peculiar originality could prevail.  Or perhaps the intention was simply to leave the rest to our imaginations with the promise that further adventures would be had by Alice and her outlandishly unconventional friends.

My first favorite movie was THE WIZARD OF OZ, a journey I still cherish.  But I now have an all-time favorite movie, something I could never determine in the past.  I am a faithful Alice devotee.  I have adored the books since small, and there finally exists a film that lives up to their fantastical nature.  As predicted, in my humble opinion, Tim Burton has created the definitive ALICE.  Sure, I realize it is not the "best" film ever made, the most breathtaking and stunning or compelling.  That isn't necessarily what qualifies something as your favorite.  More than mere effects, it is about what affects and stays with you.

But to answer the burning question, Was I dazzled? . . . I must give a resounding Yes!  My dazzlement might not be your dazzlement.  Still, it belongs to me so I will most assuredly keep it.  Besides, I love hats, and like The Mad Hatter I am clinging with fervor — hanging on eccentrically, intrepidly, wholeheartedly to mine.

And all things Alice.

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