It would seem like all the things were in place for “Alice in Wonderland” to be a lot of fun.
The film features a very creative director (Tim Burton) working with a talented cast (including Johnny Depp), adapting a story that plays to both Burton and Depp’s strengths.
Sadly, the promise is never fully realized - the film has more fizzle than sizzle.
Despite some intriguing visual aspects, “Alice” proves to be quite dull, unable to overcome an internal battle with the film’s overall tone.
“Alice in Wonderland” tells the story of a 19th century girl named Alice (Mia Wasikowska), a bit of a dreamer who is not ready to conform to a society that wants her to marry and be a proper young lady.
One day Alice gets distracted and follows a strange rabbit down a hole in an old tree trunk, unearthing another world full of strange creatures and magical situations.
Alice soon learns it is a world she has visited before and that her return is to fulfill her destiny - ending the reign of terror of the evil Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter).
Fans of Burton’s visual style will appreciate the film’s distinct look, which is only enhanced in the 3-D version.
The film is also aided by a strong cast, which includes Carter, Depp as the Mad Hatter, Anne Hathaway and Crispin Glover.
There is so much supporting talent that it really overshadows Wasikowska, who is asked to carry the movie. Part of the problem lies in the way the Alice character is written - the character seems way younger than she actually is. I realize she is supposed to have a childlike innocence, but she comes off as too immature for someone who is supposed to be 19.
But my biggest problem is the combating tone throughout the film. Is this a movie aimed at younger kids? Or is this a film designed to appease Burton’s fans?
Ultimately, I believe it tries to be a little of both - resulting in a movie that never quite clicks in either direction.
The clash of tones proves to be the fatal flaw, making “Alice in Wonderland” the first big disappointment of 2010.
Also in theaters
After months of awards buzz, including several Oscar nominations, moviegoers in Bowling Green finally get a chance to see “An Education” (A-), which makes its local debut this weekend.
This is a charming coming-of-age film anchored by a star-making turn from lead Carey Mulligan, who was nominated for Best Actress.
Mulligan plays Jenny, an English teenage girl in the 1960s who is trying to get into Oxford and pursue a better life.
Jenny’s life changes when she meets David (Peter Sarsgaard), a charming businessman nearly twice her age who swoops in and shows Jenny a lavish lifestyle she has only dreamed about.
As Jenny becomes more and more smitten with David, she becomes more conflicted about her future.
This premise could be creepy, but is surprisingly light, thanks to a great screenplay by Nick Hornby and a quality cast.
Sarsgaard is very good as the layered older man, while Alfred Molina (as Jenny’s demanding father) and Emma Thompson (as the head mistress of Jenny’s school) are also worthy of mention.
But the real star is Mulligan, who at the age of 24 delivers a performance of mesmerizing strength. Mulligan carefully balances a performance that requires her to be both wise beyond her years and naive to the world she is entering, giving Jenny much more depth and emotion than you normally see in a film.
It’s a performance that should make Mulligan a household name. Sandra Bullock may have won Best Actress, but I believe Mulligan should have taken home the Oscar.
“An Education” is rated PG-13 for mature thematic material involving sexual content, and for smoking and opens Friday at the Greenwood Mall 10.
— Sportswriter/movie reviewer Micheal Compton is still disappointed that he didn’t pick “The Hurt Locker” for Best Picture. To get his up-to-the minute thoughts on all things movies visit his blog at mcompton.wordpress.com or his Twitter page at twitter.com/mcompton428. You can also e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.