Worth Repeating: Alice in Wonderland

I’m back! My apologies for the week-or-so-long hiatus, work was brutal. I added to the brutality, however, by going to see Alice and Wonderland with my wife and some friends at Midnight opening night, knowing full well that I had to be at work at 8am the next morning, in Salt Lake (an hour away).

I’ve had a week or so think about the movie, not that I have by any means spent a large balance of time on it, but here’s my general review, in 5 words or so:

I give it a B-.

Now, if you’re a frequenter of movie reviews, a grade or a score can say a lot, especially if you knew what the expectations of the film were. Alice is a perfect example:

On March 3rd, over at one of my favorite film sites, Cinematical.com, on their reoccurring “box office predictions” post, they predicted that “Alice” would pull in a whopping $64m over the weekend. This is based on their interpretation and expertise, combining such data as how many screens the film is opening on, how much hype there is about the movie, and what time of year the movie is opening. It being March, $64 million wasn’t too shabby a prediction.

How did Alice do? Well, for one, it had the highest opening weekend in March to date. Cinematical says:

I knew Alice in Wonderland was going to do well but I seriously underestimated just how well. Alice had the biggest March opening ever, as well as the strongest opening for a 3D movie and had the best opening in history for a non-sequel.

So, as far as performance in the box office goes, you’d probably give the movie an A. To make $116m in one weekend is no easy task. So why the B-? Because there is oh so much more to a movie than how much money it makes. (Take Lars & The Real Girl for example…)

Now, where I draw the line between worth repeating and worth avoiding is somewhere between that C+ and B- range. Unless a C+ movie has a great performance or some great effects or sound design, I probably wouldn’t recommend it to others. I went into Alice in Wonderland with unusually high expectations myself. I saw the trailer months ago and was immediately filled with excitement, I being the lover of all-things-Burton-Depp-and-Carter that I am.

I was honestly torn between the C+ and B- rating for this one, however. In short, I came out of the movie without that feeling of being taken on a ride or an adventure. Sure, Tim Burton has a reputation of being a little dark and crazy, but he still makes great movies that are a lot of fun to watch over and over again (Big Fish, Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, Nightmare Before Christmas, Sweeney Todd, Sleepy Hollow and Edward Scissorhands, to name a few…). But for me, Alice lacked that sense of wonder and fulfillment.

I left the movie with an appreciation for the production value of the movie. It was well acted, had very cool special effects, and great sound. I guess where it lacked was in the script. (Why didn’t they get John August for this one? He’s got a pretty decent track record, especially with Burton.)

There was a moment or two where I felt that the movie broke its own set of rules, and that’s a huge one for me. I won’t elaborate as to prevent any spoilers, but needless to say, you’ll know what I mean when you see it.

So much of what makes a movie great rather than good stems from having a great script. You can throw millions of dollars, some audience attracting crew and cast members, and advertise the heck out of it, but those things can’t make a movie great.

Alice is, however, worth repeating. Maybe it was the hour of night I watched it, or my high expectations, but I want to give it another go. It’s a trip worth going on at least once, especially for those, like me, who remember loving the animated movie growing up.

    • Vikki
    • March 12th, 2010

    I agree. The boy and I have been discussing it since we both saw it (miles apart). I think there are redeeming qualities about it. He thinks it’s terrible. He referred to it as a Burton ‘phone in’ movie, where all the direction was done offsite and over the phone. I’m not sure if that’s fact.

    For me, I loved it being Alice again. I liked what they tried to do with the script extending it to be a whole other story, but I hated the story. What’s magical about the original disney animated Alice in Wonderland is that there is no real story. It’s a dream, a serious of events one after the other that all tie together, but seem to have no rhyme or reason. It’s wonderful.

    The new Alice in Wonderland had too much of a story, too much reason to exist, and, as you said, it broke rules. How can you decide to change history and say that the name of Wonderland was never actually wonderland. And how can the Mad Hatter actually be sane, and why did the Mad Hatter have to overdo the ‘Why is a Raven Like a Writing desk?’ It was too much.

    There was a lot I like, but it seemed like whomever wrote it was trying too hard to be ‘crazy, quirky and mad’.

    Definitely not what I had hoped for, but still good. Something I would watch again if anything for the Cheshire Cat.

    • Yeah, Steven Fry was one of the high points as the Cheshire Cat. I haven’t heard anything about off-site direction, but for me it just boils down to a really great cast, crew, and especially a director being limited by the script.

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