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Alice in Wonderland

Year: 2010
Studio: Disney
Director: Tim Burton
Producer: Tim Burton
Writer: Linda Woolverton/Lewis Carroll
Cast: Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter, Stephen Fry, Alan Rickman, Matt Lucas, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover, Michael Sheen, Timothy Spall, Marton Csokas, Michael Gough, Imelda Staunton

I tried really hard not to convince myself I wouldn't like this before seeing it. But if you've read any other reviews from me about Johnny Depp/Tim Burton collaborations of late, you'll know how tired their gothic setting/crazy-haired manchild outsider shtick is getting. Anything they were going to serve up would have to be very special to get my interest.

It wasn't only nothing special, it was a bland studio effort with Tim Burton stuck at the helm to give it marketing heft. I'd heard stories about how he disliked the 3D camera rig and banished it from his set and it shows. Unlike films like Avatar that have been conceived for 3D from the planning stages, this is a 2D film that's been handed off to the 3D engineers long after Burton cashed his cheque and went to the Bahamas.

It's actually a sequel rather than a remake, with Alice (Wasikowska) now 19 years old and finding herself back in Wonderland after falling down the rabbit hole following a familiar face. Although she doesn't remember it, everyone around her from the Cheshire cat (Fry) to the Mad Hatter (Depp) wonders if she's 'the right Alice' that they apparently remember.

Screenwriter Woolverton, under the influence of Disney millions, knew two things. First, there's simply not enough material in Lewis Carroll's book to simply retread it and not be a complete live action facsimile of the 1951 version. Second, where tale of fantastical creatures might have impressed kids 150 years ago, they get it every weekend in XBox games nowadays, and the mythology needed much more to appeal to the mash-up generation.

In hindsight, they should have left it alone rather than hang the mythology on another disposable fantasy/war story. The Queen of Hearts (Bonham Carter, another one fused to Burton's hip) has a twin sister, the White Queen (Hathaway), the rightful heir to Wonderland.

The White Queen can be restored with a magical sword that must defeat a beast called the jabberwocky in battle, so we end up with the ridiculous image of Alice dressed in armour fighting a CGI dragon-thingy while the armies of the respective queens battle it out below. I thought I'd dropped through a time warp and ended up looking like a sequel to The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – I realise the blonde, demure, polite little girl of the 1950s cartoon might be a little out of fashion in our era of equal opportunity, but she's Alice for a reason, not Ellen Ripley.

It adds nothing to a good name (Carroll) and moves a few others (Burton and his usual suspects) down more than a few notches. And predictably, it's sucked a million families into its sugary maw and is on top of the charts as I write this.

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