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Disney's 'Alice in Wonderland': Not so wonderful?

February 25, 2010 |  4:38 pm
Alice

Variety's Todd McCarthy has just weighed in with an early review of the much anticipated Tim Burton take on "Alice in Wonderland" and, to hear McCarthy tell it, instead of being a match made in celluloid heaven, the film is a huge disappointment. McCarthy says the film has moments of humor and bedazzlement, but -- and it's a big but -- the film "also becomes more ordinary as it goes along, building to a generic battle climax similar to any number of others in CGI-heavy movies of the past few years."

McCarthy clearly believes that Burton never quite got a handle on the eccentric delights of the Lewis Carroll masterwork. As he puts it: "For all its clever design, beguiling creatures and witty actors, the picture feels far more conventional than it should: It's a Disney film illustrated by Burton, rather than a Burton film that happens to be released by Disney."

What went wrong? McCarthy puts part of the blame on the script, written by Linda Woolverton, a Disney vet who had a hand in films including "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Lion King." As the critic explains, Woolverton's script gives Carroll's original episodic works a narrative backbone, but unfortunately it's a backbone that "turns 'Alice' into a formulaic piece of work, which Carroll's creation was anything but. Climactic action set piece, with an unlikely young warrior taking on a fearsome beast while gobs of CGI soldiers clash, smacks of 'The Lord of the Rings,' 'Harry Potter,' 'The Golden Compass,' 'The Chronicles of Narnia' and any number of other such recent ventures. Thus does 'Alice become normalized, a tilt Burton is surprising incapable of opposing."

Ouch! If Carroll's "Alice" was anything, it was anything but normal. Let's hope that the reaction from other critics isn't as underwhelming, but this review certainly takes my high expectations and knocks them down a couple of notches. To paraphrase a line from the film, I'd hate to see an "Alice" that has lost its muchness.

Photo of Mia Wasikowska in "Alice in Wonderland" from Disney Enterprises

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