Friday, July 23, 2010

Alice In Wonderland (2009)

Nope. Not right. Sorry, but fail.

I had high hopes for Tim Burton and Johnny Depp's collaborative efforts on Alice in Wonderland. One of two problems I have with nearly every adaptation from the beginning of time (or at least since the beginning of cinema) is that they're never dark enough (ahem - Disney Version). I knew that wouldn't be a problem here. And it wasn't. It was dark. Alice has to leap frog across a moat filled with dead bodies to get to The Red Queen's castle. Ick!

However, the other problem I have with all the adaptations is that they aren't funny. The books are funny. There almost black humor, subtly cloaked in the musings of a child. It's brilliant. This version aint so funny. There are a couple of nods toward the absurdist humor like The Red Queen mistaking Alice's name for Um when someone pauses to avoid revealing who she is. But for the most part, this version doesn't inspire laughter.

This version is also muddled in its return to wonderland sequel but not quite blah blah blah. Eventually, they lay it out. Plain and simple. If you're going to go the sequel route - go the sequel route. Make up new stuff. It might be interesting.

Then we get into the 'plot' which is ridiculously simple and too reductive to entertain. She has to slay the Jaberwock. She will. She does. Big surprise.

And Alice. In the bonus features they rave and rant and compliment and pat themselves on the back for choosing her. She blows. She displays the emotional range of a kumquat and I couldn't care less whether she is able to find her muchness. She is entirely blah. And so pale she looks like she belongs in Twilight rather than Wonderland. She has no spark, no wit like Alice should, none of the sharp intelligent logic that Alice uses to poke holes in Wonderland's absurdity. This was also not one of my favorite Johnny Depp performances. He's brave, to be sure, but his lisp through his gap tooth was irritating, his divergence into a creepy scottish accent when he's feeling upset weird. Helena Bottom Carter was fantastic - btw.

The best version, to my mind, remains the Tina Majorino NBC television movie. It suffers from a television movie budget - which is too bad - but tonally, it's closest. I'm on my way to reaching the conclusion that this is a story which simply isn't ever going to translate well. So much of the humor is in the narration that unless some brave soul tries an adaptation in which the story is simply read in voice over, it's never going to shine through. But I'll keep tabs on the various trials and let you know.

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