"Alice in Wonderland" is a dizzying movie painted on a dreadfully dull color palette, with lazy and gratuitous brushstrokes of distracting CGI throughout. Director Tim Burton heaps gobs upon gobs of endlessly eccentric stylistic choices, none of which seem to work, and the final result is a dreary experience of childhood adulteration.
After reworking Lewis Carroll's original tale and the premise of the 1951 animated film, Burton has rendered "Wonderland" as a story of return. Thirteen years after her first visit to Wonderland (or by its official name, Underland), Alice Kingsley (Mia Wasikowska) falls down the rabbit hole once more, only to discover that she is destined to end the Red Queen's reign of terror.
The only problem is that Alice believes the whole ordeal is a dream, familiar with the world itself and its characters, yet dismissing her original visit at 6 years old as the product of mere nighttime fantasy. In addition, Wonderland has become a vastly different place over the course of 13 years.
Everything has been drained of its vibrancy; an overcast land that exudes everything but wonder. This annoyance is exacerbated by the fact that "Alice in Wonderland" is yet another film shot and shown with digital 3D technology.
With those bothersome glasses resting atop one's nose, some additional depth is provided, but is it worth the inevitable lack of luster and dimming of colors? I wonder what moviegoers from decades ago would think if they walked into a dark theater today and saw, essentially, an entire crowd wearing sunglasses. Seems kind of silly, don't you think?
Not to mention that, despite the 3D effects, the CGI was in need of dire assistance. If the goal was to efficiently mesh the realism of Alice with the imaginative scenery and inhabitants of Wonderland, the effort to do so is never perceptible.
The hybrid of human characteristics and those of whimsy always appear to be on completely different levels, especially when combined into one character. Crispin Glover plays the Red Queen's assistant Stayne, Knave of Hearts. Even those completely unfamiliar with the use of CGI will recognize that something is not right when the character rides his horse, or even walks around.
The highlights of the film are ultimately, and unfortunately only, the performances of Burton regulars Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. Depp is the showcase of the entire film, playing the iconic Mad Hatter with his signature approach and professional dedication.
Carter is equally enjoyable as the Red Queen, a viciously wicked ruler still obsessed with making abrupt decisions to remove the heads of her adversaries. Wasikowska as the titular character certainly makes her presence known on screen, but being the only real thing against an artificial backdrop makes that task a fairly easy one to achieve.
I am not quite sure what Burton was looking to accomplish by transforming an originally inventive tale into his own personal playground of peculiar. Sure, Lewis Carroll's original stories were anything but normal, yet they were naturally so, while Burton merely crams in as much oddball abundance as feasibly possible.
Alice may have thought it was all a dream. But I would liken it more to a nightmare.
Greg Vellante is a graduate of North Andover High School who is currently attending UMass Lowell. He has been reviewing and writing about movies for The Eagle-Tribune since 2007.