Alice in Wonderland (2010) Movie Review

60 Comments

Although this review may suggest otherwise, I’m actually a very big fan of Tim Burton’s work. His earlier films are considerably stronger than his recent output, with “Big Fish” being the only clear exception. Pictures such as “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “The Corpse Bride”, while entertaining in their own weird ways, are lifeless, emotionally hollow affairs, void of the sort of dramatic satisfaction present in “Edward Scissorhands”, “Ed Wood”, and, strangely, “Beetlejuice”. It’s almost as if Burton’s own imagination is working against him, transforming his magical, humanistic creations into special effects-laden “big event” movies designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

The filmmaker’s latest effort, the surprisingly dull 2010 family flick “Alice in Wonderland”, is as soulless and unappealing as Disney’s lackluster “Chronicles of Narnia” franchise, though Burton certainly scores extra points for his kitchen sink approach to visual design. Wonderland is hallucinogenic, a colorful, eye-catching universe where every square inch of the screen is teeming with an array of computer-generated distractions. The presentation is frequently overwhelming, especially when twenty different things are swirling around the screen at once.

Buried beneath this mainstream psychedelia is the tired, well-worn framework of your typical Hollywood fantasy movie: A hero or heroine enters a strange, unfamiliar world, encounters a host of unusual characters, is forced to destroy an evil that threatens to overrun the land, and, eventually, saves the world from despair. Additionally, this person will also learn valuable real-life lessons that will be applied during the final touching moments of the feature. The credits will roll, a catchy pop song inspired by the movie will begin to play over the soundtrack, and all is right with the world. If you’re lucky, there will be a cross-console videogame, a fast food tie-in, and lots of fan faction to read in your spare time.

This is Burton’s interpretation of “Alice in Wonderland” in a nutshell. Instead of simply adapting the original stories like so many others before him, the talented director has instead used Lewis Carroll’s heady tales as the foundation for a pseudo-sequel which begins years after Alice’s original adventures have ended. Convinced by her father that these escapades are nothing more than a series of impossibly vivid dreams, Alice slowly begins to forget about her experiences in Wonderland, much to the dismay of those who have toiled so hard to lure her back down the rabbit hole.

There’s actually a very good reason why these bizarre individuals want her back: Alice’s role in the destruction of dreaded jabberwocky has been foretold, and the residents of Wonderland are more than a little eager to fulfill the prophecy and reclaim their land from the hateful, mean-spirited Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter). Problem is, Alice believes they’ve got the wrong girl, and is understandably reluctant to embark on this extremely perilous journey. However, with the assistance of the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) and a few other unlikely allies, Alice slowly begins to believe in herself, allowing her to rise triumphantly to the occasion at-hand. As you may already have guessed, it’s pretty epic stuff.

Problem is, “Alice in Wonderland” just isn’t very exciting. There’s plenty of fast, light-hearted action on-tap, to be sure, and the finale is literally saturated in glossy, high fantasy-inspired shenanigans. Unfortunately, there are simply too many ideas and way too many characters in Linda Woolverton’s overly ambitious script, forcing Burton to fill our cinematic plates with more than we could possibly hope to consume in one viewing. The core essence of the story has been overblown, stretched thin, its nuances obscured by the Red Queen’s humongous head and the Mad Hatter’s peculiar speech patterns. The film’s meticulously-detailed set pieces and gorgeous costumes are certainly easy on the eyes, but these elements do little to hide the clumsy plotting and sluggish pacing.

Regarding performances, it’s safe to say that everyone does a serviceable job with their respective roles, though it’s painfully clear which actors had a firmer grasp of the material. Some, like Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, and Matt Lucas, bring their characters to life with a suitable amount of twisted glee, while others — Mia Wasikowska in particular — seem utterly confused by the emotions they’re supposed to be displaying at any given moment. Sadly, any film that fails to make proper use of Crispin Glover is a failure in my book, especially when the movie in question should allow him to do what he does best. For shame, Tim Burton. For shame.

As if these problems weren’t enough to sour my experience with Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland”, the picture is saddled with one of the most remarkably embarrassing celebratory sequences I’ve encountered in quite some time; it makes the Ewok dance at the end of “Return of the Jedi” look like the stuff of Broadway legend. Of course, none of these complaints matter much in the grand scheme of things, as a film of this nature is virtually critic proof. One look at its 3-day box office numbers shows that the production is well on its way to the land of wealth and profitability, and I’m honestly not surprised. Be that as it may, those looking for an intriguing, thought-provoking angle on the “Alice in Wonderland” series should definitely look elsewhere. The picture may have Burton’s colorful stink smeared all over it, but there’s really nothing new here. I’d be greatly disappointed if I weren’t too bored to care.

Tim Burton (director) / Linda Woolverton (screenplay)
CAST: Mia Wasikowska … Alice
Johnny Depp … Mad Hatter
Helena Bonham Carter … Red Queen
Anne Hathaway … White Queen
Crispin Glover … Stayne – Knave of Hearts
Matt Lucas … Tweedledee / Tweedledum
Stephen Fry … Cheshire Cat
Michael Sheen … White Rabbit
Alan Rickman … Blue Caterpillar


Author: Todd Rigney

Todd was raised on a steady diet of Hollywood blockbusters, late-night Cinemax programming, and USA’s “Up All Night,” which may explain why his taste in movies is more than a little questionable. When he isn’t providing news and reviews for Beyond Hollywood, he can be found lounging lazily on his couch, perched in front of his television, or dwelling in places where direct sunlight can be easily avoided. He's happily married, in his 30's, and totally badass. If you'd like to reach Todd, you can follow him on Twitter or send him email/scoops to todd (at) beyondhollywood.com.
  • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool aka Jiinx

    You do know that this was based on “Through the Looking Glass” not the first Alice story mostly? Most people don’t even know that story outside those who actually read the source material or saw one of the few adaptations from decades ago. I think using “Alice in Wonderland” as the title was to draw people in with the recognizeable title. That said I am aware Mr. Burton took liberties with the material. My question is what were YOU expecting to see from a Tim Burton “Alice” flick?

  • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool aka Jiinx

    You do know that this was based on “Through the Looking Glass” not the first Alice story mostly? Most people don’t even know that story outside those who actually read the source material or saw one of the few adaptations from decades ago. I think using “Alice in Wonderland” as the title was to draw people in with the recognizeable title. That said I am aware Mr. Burton took liberties with the material. My question is what were YOU expecting to see from a Tim Burton “Alice” flick?

    • http://www.thefilmfiend.com/ Todd

      Yes, I’m aware that “Through the Looking Glass” was the basis for the picture. In regards to expectations, I was hoping for something a bit more mature, something a little darker and less childish. Burton is stuck in a rut, and “Alice in Wonderland” is proof positive.

      • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool aka Jiinx

        Ah gotcha. But did it NEED to be darker? Would alienating children (who grew up with it, and are discovering it now) been the best idea? Were the changes to the story that bad really? Or was it just poorly paced and written?
        But I guess I’ll have to see it as many people I know who’ve seen it loved it and said it’s just adult enough for adults but isn’t too bad for the 8-12 crowd either.

        That said, childish or not style over substance is what hollywood seems to be about, but there’s a change on the horizon, i.e. movies like “Hurt Locker” winning best picture over “Avatar” and “District 9.”

        • http://www.thefilmfiend.com/ Todd

          There are ways to make the material darker without alienating children in the process. “The Neverending Story”, for example, is dark and family friendly, as is “The Dark Crystal” and, to a lesser extent, “9″.

          The pacing and plotting, while remarkably weak, take a back seat to the tired visual tomfoolery Burton is synonymous with. At this stage in the game, it’s just boring. I’m ready for him to branch out a bit in terms of style and execution. Might not hurt to cut ties with Depp for a little while, too.

          • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool aka Jiinx

            Yeah they’re getting stale together I guess. And “Dark Crystal,” “Neverending Story,” and “9″ are all faves of mine. I’m just saddened this didn’t live up to what I was hoping I guess.

          • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool aka Jiinx

            Yeah they’re getting stale together I guess. And “Dark Crystal,” “Neverending Story,” and “9″ are all faves of mine. I’m just saddened this didn’t live up to what I was hoping I guess.

          • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool aka Jiinx

            Yeah they’re getting stale together I guess. And “Dark Crystal,” “Neverending Story,” and “9″ are all faves of mine. I’m just saddened this didn’t live up to what I was hoping I guess.

          • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool aka Jiinx

            Yeah they’re getting stale together I guess. And “Dark Crystal,” “Neverending Story,” and “9″ are all faves of mine. I’m just saddened this didn’t live up to what I was hoping I guess.

          • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool aka Jiinx

            Yeah they’re getting stale together I guess. And “Dark Crystal,” “Neverending Story,” and “9″ are all faves of mine. I’m just saddened this didn’t live up to what I was hoping I guess.

        • http://www.thefilmfiend.com/ Todd

          There are ways to make the material darker without alienating children in the process. “The Neverending Story”, for example, is dark and family friendly, as is “The Dark Crystal” and, to a lesser extent, “9″.

          The pacing and plotting, while remarkably weak, take a back seat to the tired visual tomfoolery Burton is synonymous with. At this stage in the game, it’s just boring. I’m ready for him to branch out a bit in terms of style and execution. Might not hurt to cut ties with Depp for a little while, too.

        • http://www.thefilmfiend.com/ Todd

          There are ways to make the material darker without alienating children in the process. “The Neverending Story”, for example, is dark and family friendly, as is “The Dark Crystal” and, to a lesser extent, “9″.

          The pacing and plotting, while remarkably weak, take a back seat to the tired visual tomfoolery Burton is synonymous with. At this stage in the game, it’s just boring. I’m ready for him to branch out a bit in terms of style and execution. Might not hurt to cut ties with Depp for a little while, too.

        • http://www.thefilmfiend.com/ Todd

          There are ways to make the material darker without alienating children in the process. “The Neverending Story”, for example, is dark and family friendly, as is “The Dark Crystal” and, to a lesser extent, “9″.

          The pacing and plotting, while remarkably weak, take a back seat to the tired visual tomfoolery Burton is synonymous with. At this stage in the game, it’s just boring. I’m ready for him to branch out a bit in terms of style and execution. Might not hurt to cut ties with Depp for a little while, too.

        • http://www.thefilmfiend.com/ Todd

          There are ways to make the material darker without alienating children in the process. “The Neverending Story”, for example, is dark and family friendly, as is “The Dark Crystal” and, to a lesser extent, “9″.

          The pacing and plotting, while remarkably weak, take a back seat to the tired visual tomfoolery Burton is synonymous with. At this stage in the game, it’s just boring. I’m ready for him to branch out a bit in terms of style and execution. Might not hurt to cut ties with Depp for a little while, too.

      • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool aka Jiinx

        Ah gotcha. But did it NEED to be darker? Would alienating children (who grew up with it, and are discovering it now) been the best idea? Were the changes to the story that bad really? Or was it just poorly paced and written?
        But I guess I’ll have to see it as many people I know who’ve seen it loved it and said it’s just adult enough for adults but isn’t too bad for the 8-12 crowd either.

        That said, childish or not style over substance is what hollywood seems to be about, but there’s a change on the horizon, i.e. movies like “Hurt Locker” winning best picture over “Avatar” and “District 9.”

      • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool aka Jiinx

        Ah gotcha. But did it NEED to be darker? Would alienating children (who grew up with it, and are discovering it now) been the best idea? Were the changes to the story that bad really? Or was it just poorly paced and written?
        But I guess I’ll have to see it as many people I know who’ve seen it loved it and said it’s just adult enough for adults but isn’t too bad for the 8-12 crowd either.

        That said, childish or not style over substance is what hollywood seems to be about, but there’s a change on the horizon, i.e. movies like “Hurt Locker” winning best picture over “Avatar” and “District 9.”

      • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool aka Jiinx

        Ah gotcha. But did it NEED to be darker? Would alienating children (who grew up with it, and are discovering it now) been the best idea? Were the changes to the story that bad really? Or was it just poorly paced and written?
        But I guess I’ll have to see it as many people I know who’ve seen it loved it and said it’s just adult enough for adults but isn’t too bad for the 8-12 crowd either.

        That said, childish or not style over substance is what hollywood seems to be about, but there’s a change on the horizon, i.e. movies like “Hurt Locker” winning best picture over “Avatar” and “District 9.”

      • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool aka Jiinx

        Ah gotcha. But did it NEED to be darker? Would alienating children (who grew up with it, and are discovering it now) been the best idea? Were the changes to the story that bad really? Or was it just poorly paced and written?
        But I guess I’ll have to see it as many people I know who’ve seen it loved it and said it’s just adult enough for adults but isn’t too bad for the 8-12 crowd either.

        That said, childish or not style over substance is what hollywood seems to be about, but there’s a change on the horizon, i.e. movies like “Hurt Locker” winning best picture over “Avatar” and “District 9.”

    • http://www.thefilmfiend.com/ Todd

      Yes, I’m aware that “Through the Looking Glass” was the basis for the picture. In regards to expectations, I was hoping for something a bit more mature, something a little darker and less childish. Burton is stuck in a rut, and “Alice in Wonderland” is proof positive.

    • http://www.thefilmfiend.com/ Todd

      Yes, I’m aware that “Through the Looking Glass” was the basis for the picture. In regards to expectations, I was hoping for something a bit more mature, something a little darker and less childish. Burton is stuck in a rut, and “Alice in Wonderland” is proof positive.

    • http://www.thefilmfiend.com/ Todd

      Yes, I’m aware that “Through the Looking Glass” was the basis for the picture. In regards to expectations, I was hoping for something a bit more mature, something a little darker and less childish. Burton is stuck in a rut, and “Alice in Wonderland” is proof positive.

    • http://www.thefilmfiend.com/ Todd

      Yes, I’m aware that “Through the Looking Glass” was the basis for the picture. In regards to expectations, I was hoping for something a bit more mature, something a little darker and less childish. Burton is stuck in a rut, and “Alice in Wonderland” is proof positive.

  • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool aka Jiinx

    You do know that this was based on “Through the Looking Glass” not the first Alice story mostly? Most people don’t even know that story outside those who actually read the source material or saw one of the few adaptations from decades ago. I think using “Alice in Wonderland” as the title was to draw people in with the recognizeable title. That said I am aware Mr. Burton took liberties with the material. My question is what were YOU expecting to see from a Tim Burton “Alice” flick?

  • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com Dedpool

    You do know that this was based on “Through the Looking Glass” not the first Alice story mostly? Most people don’t even know that story outside those who actually read the source material or saw one of the few adaptations from decades ago. I think using “Alice in Wonderland” as the title was to draw people in with the recognizeable title. That said I am aware Mr. Burton took liberties with the material. My question is what were YOU expecting to see from a Tim Burton “Alice” flick?

    • http://www.thefilmfiend.com Todd

      Yes, I’m aware that “Through the Looking Glass” was the basis for the picture. In regards to expectations, I was hoping for something a bit more mature, something a little darker and less childish. Burton is stuck in a rut, and “Alice in Wonderland” is proof positive.

      • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com Dedpool

        Ah gotcha. But did it NEED to be darker? Would alienating children (who grew up with it, and are discovering it now) been the best idea? Were the changes to the story that bad really? Or was it just poorly paced and written?
        But I guess I’ll have to see it as many people I know who’ve seen it loved it and said it’s just adult enough for adults but isn’t too bad for the 8-12 crowd either.

        That said, childish or not style over substance is what hollywood seems to be about, but there’s a change on the horizon, i.e. movies like “Hurt Locker” winning best picture over “Avatar” and “District 9.”

        • http://www.thefilmfiend.com Todd

          There are ways to make the material darker without alienating children in the process. “The Neverending Story”, for example, is dark and family friendly, as is “The Dark Crystal” and, to a lesser extent, “9″.

          The pacing and plotting, while remarkably weak, take a back seat to the tired visual tomfoolery Burton is synonymous with. At this stage in the game, it’s just boring. I’m ready for him to branch out a bit in terms of style and execution. Might not hurt to cut ties with Depp for a little while, too.

          • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com Dedpool

            Yeah they’re getting stale together I guess. And “Dark Crystal,” “Neverending Story,” and “9″ are all faves of mine. I’m just saddened this didn’t live up to what I was hoping I guess.

  • j.james

    Being that it was based on the second book i didn’t find the film to be that bad actually. Not flawless by any means, but definitely not as bad as people are complaining about. I think the main reason behind people not digging it so much was because it was based off the lesser known 2nd book.( which i found to be the more interesting book out of the 2). I hear people complaining that it was too saturated and visually eye popping to the point that you couldn’t even look at the screen at times because so much was going on. What? I have to ask how old are you? Are you like 85 yrs old, because i didn’t see it that way at all. I thought Burton did a slendid job on creating how Wonderland was presented. Like i said, the film wasn’t flawless, but it wasn’t a terrible..I actually enjoyed it.

    • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool aka Jiinx

      “which i found to be the more interesting book out of the 2″. Exactly.

    • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool aka Jiinx

      “which i found to be the more interesting book out of the 2″. Exactly.

    • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool aka Jiinx

      “which i found to be the more interesting book out of the 2″. Exactly.

    • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool aka Jiinx

      “which i found to be the more interesting book out of the 2″. Exactly.

    • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool aka Jiinx

      “which i found to be the more interesting book out of the 2″. Exactly.

    • http://www.thefilmfiend.com/ Todd

      What does age have to do with anything? Simply put, Burton put visuals before story, and created a mess in the process.

    • http://www.thefilmfiend.com/ Todd

      What does age have to do with anything? Simply put, Burton put visuals before story, and created a mess in the process.

  • j.james

    Being that it was based on the second book i didn’t find the film to be that bad actually. Not flawless by any means, but definitely not as bad as people are complaining about. I think the main reason behind people not digging it so much was because it was based off the lesser known 2nd book.( which i found to be the more interesting book out of the 2). I hear people complaining that it was too saturated and visually eye popping to the point that you couldn’t even look at the screen at times because so much was going on. What? I have to ask how old are you? Are you like 85 yrs old, because i didn’t see it that way at all. I thought Burton did a slendid job on creating how Wonderland was presented. Like i said, the film wasn’t flawless, but it wasn’t a terrible..I actually enjoyed it.

  • j.james

    Being that it was based on the second book i didn’t find the film to be that bad actually. Not flawless by any means, but definitely not as bad as people are complaining about. I think the main reason behind people not digging it so much was because it was based off the lesser known 2nd book.( which i found to be the more interesting book out of the 2). I hear people complaining that it was too saturated and visually eye popping to the point that you couldn’t even look at the screen at times because so much was going on. What? I have to ask how old are you? Are you like 85 yrs old, because i didn’t see it that way at all. I thought Burton did a slendid job on creating how Wonderland was presented. Like i said, the film wasn’t flawless, but it wasn’t a terrible..I actually enjoyed it.

  • j.james

    Being that it was based on the second book i didn’t find the film to be that bad actually. Not flawless by any means, but definitely not as bad as people are complaining about. I think the main reason behind people not digging it so much was because it was based off the lesser known 2nd book.( which i found to be the more interesting book out of the 2). I hear people complaining that it was too saturated and visually eye popping to the point that you couldn’t even look at the screen at times because so much was going on. What? I have to ask how old are you? Are you like 85 yrs old, because i didn’t see it that way at all. I thought Burton did a slendid job on creating how Wonderland was presented. Like i said, the film wasn’t flawless, but it wasn’t a terrible..I actually enjoyed it.

  • j.james

    Being that it was based on the second book i didn’t find the film to be that bad actually. Not flawless by any means, but definitely not as bad as people are complaining about. I think the main reason behind people not digging it so much was because it was based off the lesser known 2nd book.( which i found to be the more interesting book out of the 2). I hear people complaining that it was too saturated and visually eye popping to the point that you couldn’t even look at the screen at times because so much was going on. What? I have to ask how old are you? Are you like 85 yrs old, because i didn’t see it that way at all. I thought Burton did a slendid job on creating how Wonderland was presented. Like i said, the film wasn’t flawless, but it wasn’t a terrible..I actually enjoyed it.

  • j.james

    Being that it was based on the second book i didn’t find the film to be that bad actually. Not flawless by any means, but definitely not as bad as people are complaining about. I think the main reason behind people not digging it so much was because it was based off the lesser known 2nd book.( which i found to be the more interesting book out of the 2). I hear people complaining that it was too saturated and visually eye popping to the point that you couldn’t even look at the screen at times because so much was going on. What? I have to ask how old are you? Are you like 85 yrs old, because i didn’t see it that way at all. I thought Burton did a slendid job on creating how Wonderland was presented. Like i said, the film wasn’t flawless, but it wasn’t a terrible..I actually enjoyed it.

    • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com Dedpool

      “which i found to be the more interesting book out of the 2″. Exactly.

    • http://www.thefilmfiend.com Todd

      What does age have to do with anything? Simply put, Burton put visuals before story, and created a mess in the process.