By infusing the Victorian era heroine who tumbles into Underland (which she dubs Wonderland) with the feisty can-do attitude of a contemporary nineteen year old girl, Lion King and Beauty and the Beast screenwriter Linda Woolverton has at least made strides in making the latest version of Alice a bit more relatable.
And while it's still far from the emotionally engrossing storyline that filmmaker Tim Burton was hoping to put forth considering his publicized admission that he'd never really felt a connection to the plot in previous versions, the structure of this Alice nonetheless has much in common with traditional Disney hero's journey fare complete with a slightly anticlimactic but nonetheless vital showdown between good and evil in the third act.
Yet while the third act sends this film directly into formulaic territory, Alice in Wonderland had already been in grave danger of losing its audience long before then. Namely aside from making far more sense than some of the more freewheeling, wildly trippy imaginings of Lewis Carroll's Alice Through the Looking Glass and Alice in Wonderland that have graced movie screens in the past, overall, there's not much about this film that really pulls the audience in as something other than an enchanting visual spectacle.
In the director's first venture with green screen technology, Burton and his visual effects team succeed marvelously in transforming the characters from both the page and the characterizations enlivened by the actors into unique digital snowflakes where no two (even Tweedledee and Tweedledum) are alike and all are unlike anything we've ever seen before.
Enhancing everything from the eyes of Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter to the size of Red Queen Helena Bonham Carter's head, the former Disney animator Burton and his effects team seem to find their CG footing instantly and perhaps have a little too much fun animating more than they should have in this at times far too distracting mixture of live action and animation with so much going on in one scene that you're never sure where to look.
The result is a gorgeous one-of-a-kind living storybook that is particularly radiant on Blu-ray, transferred to disc in a combo pack (including DVD and Digital Copy) using the original 2D footage that was filmed before it was then technically altered for its 3D release.
And while from a purely visual perspective, Alice ranks among the best of Burton in perhaps his most vivid work since Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, unfortunately as a movie, it never manages to crack through the charts as one of the innovative filmmaker's more memorable works. Likewise, this is especially the case since the same studio that released this version – Walt Disney – has already produced the definitive adaptation of the very same tale decades earlier in good old fashioned, green-screen free hand drawn animation.
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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.