I went to see Tim Burton's ALICE IN WONDERLAND today. I've had a problem with Burton's projects for nearly a decade now. I was in love with him from PEE WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE and EDWARD SCISSORHANDS but slowly lost my faith in him so much so that I actually resented his slaughter of classics like PLANET OF THE APES. I wouldn't judge any artist for choosing style over substance, but to makeover beloved, sophisticated stories with deluxe jumbo crayons, to the point of making them into slaw, seemed like a waste to me. Worse, I felt like I wasn't being allowed to get into the stories.
Well, the maestro is back and better than ever! This ALICE has such heart, wit and visual whimsy it's going to be hard for anyone to deny it. While the performances are caricatures, they are imbued with such consistency and charm, you'll feel like you know these strange people. The production design is deep. There are Easter eggs and details that you'll be picking out from now right through the Blu-ray release. Johnny Depp is pure, mad love. And this endorsement comes from a person who loves the idea of the man but has never found his performances very convincing. Here Depp gets hold of your heart and doesn't let it go. Helena Bonham Carter belongs in this movie whether she happens to be Mrs. Burton or not. She achieves that delightful loved-to-be-hated quality we cheer for in our screen villains. It's great to see Crispin Glover again in a role that lets him stretch (literally). Anne Hathaway is really funny in a part that could have been not much fun at all. She's Billie Burke crossbred with Fay Wray. And finally, the breathtaking Mia Wasikowska is an Alice that every little girl will want to be, every little boy will want to love and every adult will want to parent.
The movie is truly an original treatment, but maintains a referential affection for the many iconic versions of the story that preceded it. The book, the Disney animated movie and even more obscure imaginings all are serviced here. This incredible balancing act between the familiar and the unique enhances the mystical quality of the movie. You actually feel like you're in a dream populated by people you feel you know but in a world where you can't possibly have been before. I went with my pals Ogre and Ashley and all of us were just tickled and exhilarated by the experience.
For the first time in recent memory, I'll be buying tickets to this movie again. I hope you let it wash over you some afternoon. Surrender to it for a little while. You'll leave the theater reminded of why you love movies and Tim Burton.