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'Alice' in battleland

Published March 09. 2010 05:00PM

In director Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" Alice wields a sacred sword to battle the Jabberwocky dragon.

What Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll, would make of this, one can only imagine.

Imagination is key to this re-imagining of "Wonderland," owing as much to Burton's rococo style ("Edward Scissorhands," "Sleepy Hollow," "Sweeney Todd") as Carroll.

This is not the Disney version. This is the Burton version. And it's dark, not only because it's in 3-D.

Carroll's original characters are intact. Their renderings, especially in 3-D, are phenomenal.

Johnny Depp, reteaming with Burton for the seventh time, is a dandy Mad Hatter, although CGI-generated green eyes rob the actor of one of his greatest attributes.

Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen is given heart-shaped lipstick on lips of an enormous head perched on a tiny, CGI-altered body.

Anne Hathaway is a regal White Queen, all fluttery of hand and eyelashes.

Burton seems obsessed with Japanese kabuki-style whiteface makeup, seen on these three characters.

Mia Wasikowska proves a game and gamine Alice, a troubled look seeming to ever cloud her face.

It's not that Burton has completely lost the plot. However, while some of Carroll's colorful dialogue is retained ("Curiouser and curiouser"), this "Alice" is nearly all action.

Screenwriter Linda Woolverton ("The Lion King," "Beauty and the Beast") has sequelized the original.

Alice, now 19, ditches her engagement party and head-over-heels tumbles back down the rabbitt hole to Wonderland, now called Underland.

There follows lots of chases, shouting and fighting, especially the battlefield finale.

The Blue Caterpillar, voiced in lovely dulcet tones by Alan Rickman; the Cheshire Cat, voiced by Stephen Fry; and Tweedledee-Tweedledum (Matt Lucas) are among the more memorable CGI characters.

There are many fine moments in "Alice," but it doesn't add up. Then again, neither did Carroll's original.

"Alice in Wonderland": MPAA Rated PG (Parental Guidance Suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children) for fantasy action-violence involving scary images and situations, and for a smoking caterpillar; Genre: Adventure, Family, Fantasy; Run tiime: 1 hr., 48 mins.; Distributed by Walt Disney Studios.

Credit Readers Anonymous: Avril Lavigne wrote and sings the title song, "Alice," over the "Alice in Wonderland" closing credits.

"The Last Station," with Oscar nominated actor and actress performances, respectively, by Christopher Plummer as Leo Tolstoy and Helen Mirren as his wife, the Countess, provides a splendid time at the movies. There's also a fine performance by James McAvoy as Tolstoy's assistant; Kerry Condon as Masha, his girlfriend; and Paul Giamatti as Chertkov, Tolstoy's controlling ally.

Box Office, March 5: "Alice in Wonderland" opened at No. 1 with summer blockbuster numbers: $116.3 million. "Brooklyn's Finest" opened at a distant No. 2, $13.5 million. "Shutter Island" dropped to No. 3, after two weeks at No. 1, $13.3 million, $95.8 million, three weeks.

4. "Cop Out," $9.1 million, $32.3 million, two weeks; 5. "Avatar," $7.7 million, $720.1 million, 12 weeks; 6. "The Crazies," $7 million, $27.4 million, two weeks; 7. "Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief," $5.1 million, $78 million, four weeks; 8. "Valentine's Day," $4.2 million, $106.4 million, four weeks; 9. "Crazy Heart," $3.3 million, $29.5 million, 12 weeks; 10. "Dear John," $2.8 million, $76.6 million, five weeks

The Oscars: "The Hurt Locker," receiving six of its nine nominations, dominated the 82nd Academy Awards. "Avatar," also with nine nominations, received three in technical categories.

The recipients were not unexpected: Picture: "The Hurt Locker"; Director: Kathryn Bigelow, "The Hurt Locker"; Actor: Jeff Bridges, "Crazy Heart"; Actress: Sandra Bullock, "The Blind Side"; Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, "Inglourious Basterds"; Supporting Actress: Mo'Nique, "Precious"; and Animated Feature: "Up."

I picked six of the seven top Oscar categories, going with "Avatar" for best picture, the evening's deal-breaker for those keeping score.

Bigelow is the first woman to win for best director. She was the fourth female best director nominee: Lina Wertmüller, "Seven Beauties" (1976); Jane Campion, "The Piano" (1993); and Sofia Coppola, "Lost In Translation" (2003).

Minor surprises included: adapted screenplay: Geoffrey Fletcher, "Precious"; adapted screenplay: Mark Boal, "The Hurt Locker"; and soundtrack: Michael Giacchino, "The Hurt Locker."

Elinor Burkett and Easton native and Northampton Community College graduate Roger Ross Williams received best short documentary Oscar for "Music by Prudence."

Unreel, March 12: In the "Green Zone," Paul Greengrass directs Matt Damon as an Army officer hunting for weapons of mass destruction. Robert Pattison ("Twilight") stars in the romantic drama, "Remember Me." "Our Family Wedding" stars America Ferrera and Forest Whitaker in a romantic comedy about a young couple's impending wedding. "She's Out of My League" is about a young man pursuing the "perfect girl."

Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes

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