Tim Burton’s ‘Alice In Wonderland’ is anything but ‘Wonderful’

Mia Wasikowska picture By Drew McWeeny – It’s been a little over a week since I saw Tim Burton’s new “Alice In Wonderland”, which is not so much a remake or an adaptation as it is a sequel, ignoring of course the idea that Lewis Carroll wrote a perfectly lovely sequel himself. It is wrong-headed in pretty much every way it can be, poorly designed, loud, and worst of all, boring. It is a catastrophe as a movie, and as a place marker in the career of Tim Burton, it is a big fat dead end.

There’s a lot of talent wasted in this one, which is part of what offends me about it. Mia Wasikowska is, in my opinion, sort of a genius. If you haven’t seen the first season of HBO’s “In Treatment,” then you might not be aware of just how powerful a performer she is, but she ruined me with her work as Sophie on that show. She gave a performance most veteran actors decades older than her would be jealous of, and she made it look like it was as natural to her as breathing. She’s also very, very strong in “The Kids Are All Right,” one of the big films out of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and I expect that when that film gets released at the end of the year, much of the conversation about its merits will focus on her, and with good reason. Here, she’s fine, but she has nothing to do.

Alice is a passive character in Carroll’s original work, and screenwriter Linda Woolverton obviously thought the way to make Alice more interesting would be to make her older and make her the center of a prophecy that turns her from an interested observer into the savior of Underland, as this film calls it. Linda Woolverton was wrong. Making this yet another riff on the monomyth is pretty much exactly as wrong as you can get “Alice In Wonderland.” Carroll’s book has served as a great springboard for many different interpretations precisely because it’s not a typical fantasy story about a Chosen One doing Heroic Things, but is instead a canvass onto which you can paint whimsy and satire and commentary. Alice isn’t picked for her journey because she’s special. Instead, she stumbles into her adventures because of her own childish curiosity. In this film, all of Alice’s efforts lead to her in a suit of armor fighting a monster with a sword.
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