See This: Alice in Wonderland (2010, Tim Burton)
I am recommending Alice in Wonderland, but with reservations. Unfortunately, what's wrong with the film is Alice herself; Mia Wasikowska in the title role is almost the film's undoing. I can't think of an actress more poorly cast.
It doesn't help that Burton decided to go with a "re-imagining" of the classic Lewis Carroll tale, combining elements of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and then making his heroine a sullen 19-year-old girl. Wasikowska looks like Alice, she just doesn't act like Alice. Or act in general, using various frowns to display a range of emotions that never seem to rise above somnambulance.
Alice has forgotten about her former trips to Wonderland and is now being forced into an arranged marriage. When she sees the White Rabbit (voiced by Michael Sheen), she follows him down the rabbit hole back to Wonderland, which is now a bombed out, desolate place called Underland. It's ruled mercilessly by the Red Queen, played by the brilliant, scene-stealing Helena Bonham Carter. With her head blown up three times its normal size, she is both a source of humor and tyranny.
Alice soon meets up with all her old pals: Tweedledee and Tweedledum (Matt Lucas), the Cheshire Cate (Stephen Fry), the hookah smoking Caterpillar (Alan Rickman), Dormouse (Barbara Windsor) and the Mad Hatter, played by Johnny Depp. Using a mix of live action and animation, the computer-generated animals blend perfectly with their human counterparts, but the magic that was once in that accomplishment is missing. Maybe it's because we've seen it done before – and better – in other films.
Mad Hatter and Co. decide that Alice is the only one who can return the power of Underland to the exiled White Queen (a floaty, over the top Anne Hathaway in Baby Jane Hudson make-up) by slaying the fearsome Jabberwocky, a dragon under the control of the Red Queen.
Depp is deliriously demented as the Hatter, and seems to be drawing on Willy Wonka and some of the other crazies he's played. He's taken prisoner by the Red Queen, hoping she can find the whereabouts of Alice and destroy her once and for all. Depp and Bonham Carter's scenes together just about rescue the film as he tries to create millinery suitable for her bulbous head. Crispin Glover prances about as the Knave of Hearts, and seeing the usually deranged Glover playing it straight as cartoon villain is almost depressing.
Meanwhile, Alice keeps telling herself she's in a dream, so she's scared of nothing and wanders from scene to scene looking put-upon or bored. It's not until she's forced into a suit of armor and forced to battle the Jabberwocky that anything verging on range comes through Wasakowski. The epic battle sees the White Queen and the Red Queen's pawns squaring off on a chessboard and, disappointingly, it's second-rate Lord of the Rings and then a little third-rate Wizard of Oz as the White Queen sends Alice home after she's slain the Jabberwocky. And, no, that's not a spoiler.
I guess with Tim Burton at the helm, I was expecting something a little more dark and twisted. It is dark -- as dark as Disney Films would allow it to be -- and I wouldn't recommend it for young kids. But after seeing films like Lord of the Rings and Avatar, the visual punch you've come to expect just isn't there. Yes, there is a 3-D version of Alice, but don't bother. Friday the 13th 3D had better effects.
Go see it for Helena and Johnny. It's worth the price of a matinee.