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Alice in Wonderland: Early Reviews

Alice in Wonderland: Early Reviews

Post-London premiere, the early review floodgates have opened on Tim Burton and Linda Woolverton’s reimagining of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland in 3-D, which is poised to be a box office monster when it opens wide on March 5. (I will report back after I see the movie next Tuesday.)

Disney’s decision to shorten the window between theatrical and DVD from 17 to 12 weeks on this high expectation tent-pole is about getting the most bang for their promotional buck on a costly movie that they may not expect to keep in theaters for a long time. A Disney spokesman told Variety: “it is vital to get content to market quickly, especially in a digital age where broadband access is so ubiquitous.”

In other words, this movie will likely open huge and fall off fast. Enraged exhibitors both here and in the U.K. have threatened boycotts, which have been resolved. Kim Masters asks if Disney has gone mad. Of course Hollywood is threatened by the new order at Disney–it’s about facing the unknown. I for one I’m eager to see how Disney chairman Robert Iger and new studio chief Rich Ross plow ahead with their plans to challenge the studio release paradigm. Somebody’s got to do it.

Early reviews are on the jump–and all over the map:

In Variety, Todd McCarthy complains that the movie is visually compelling but unexpectedly conventional. “It’s a Disney film illustrated by Burton, rather than a Burton film that happens to be released by Disney,” he writes:

“You’ve lost your muchness,” Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter remarks to his newly shrunken teenage friend, and much the same could be said of Tim Burton in the wake of his encounter with a Victorian-era heroine of imaginative powers even wilder than his own. Quite like what one would expect from such a match of filmmaker and material and also something less, this “Alice in Wonderland” has its moments of delight, humor and bedazzlement. But it also becomes more ordinary as it goes along, building to a generic battle climax similar to any number of others in CGI-heavy movies of the past few years. A humongous Disney promo effort and inevitable curiosity about the first post-“Avatar” 3D extravaganza will pull wondrous early B.O. numbers, although long-term forecast could become clouded by the imminent arrival of further high-profile kid-friendly features.

The Guardian favors the film’s style over content:

Here is a film in which the art direction eats the magic cake and swells to giant proportions, while the script drinks from the magic vial and shrinks away to insignificance…it’s a glorious feast for the senses that fades away after the credits roll, leaving barely a trace of a hangover.”

The Hollywood Reporter’s Michael Rechtshaffen delivers an all-out rave:

Not that there was any doubt that, when it came to restaging the 1865 Lewis Carroll classic for a 21st century sensibility, Tim Burton would be the man for the job. But even the filmmaker’s trademark winsomely outlandish style doesn’t prepare you for the thoroughly enjoyable spectacle that is his “Alice in Wonderland.” A fantastical romp that proves every bit as transporting as that movie about the blue people of Pandora, his “Alice” is more than just a gorgeous 3D sight to behold.

And Emanuel Levy is disappointed: “in individual sequences, the movie soars to Hollywood’s highest level of creativity. And yet something is missing to make this rendition a truly exciting and memorable artistic experience—call it heart and gravity.”

UPDATE: Screenwriter/blogger John August (Burton’s Big Fish) explains why he keeps not writing Alice in Wonderland.

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