Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Video review: "Alice in Wonderland"

The worst thing about sitting through "Alice in Wonderland" is the dawning realization that director Tim Burton, once one of the most original voices in Hollywood, has become king of the crappy remakes.

The movie-going public simply did not need a new version of "Planet of the Apes" or "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," and the same goes for "Alice."

Festooned with computer-generated critters and the now-obligatory kooky Johnny Depp performance, "Alice" is essentially a sequel to the original Lewis Carroll books. Alice (Mia Wasikowska), now a willful teen, refuses an arranged marriage to a wealthy suitor for a return trip to Wonderland.

It seems in her absence the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter, her head ballooned by CG puffery) has usurped the throne of the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) and is lopping off heads at a record pace.

Depp plays the Mad Hatter, bit player in the Carroll books but now Alice's best friend/muse. It's a performance steeped in its own weird sauce, a spray of sibilant nonsense and rousing Braveheart-esque speeches.

In the unholy and wholly unnecessary matrimony between Tim Burton and "Alice," it's clear that originality doesn't live here anymore.

The film is available as a single DVD or a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack. Video extras are OK for the DVD version, and expand considerably with Blu-ray.

The DVD includes a making-of documentary, a featurette about the film's visual effects, and another about how Depp constructed his latest crazy character -- including digitally enhancing his eyes so that he resembled Elijah Wood in drag queen makeup.

In addition, the Blu-ray has featurettes on creating the Red Queen, the White Queen, musical score, sets, stunts and even the Hatter's Futterwhacken Dance.

For myself, I wish Tim Burton would kick all the big-money productions and computer imagery to the curb, and concentrate on small, clever concoctions of his own recipe. These days it feels like he's baking someone else's cakes.

Movie: 1.5 stars out of four
Extras: 3.5 stars

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