Who's In it: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover, Matt Lucas, Stephen Fry, Michael Sheen, Alan Rickman
The Basics: Alice is about to be shoved into an arranged marriage with a chinless British lord. And when she should be accepting her corseted fate, she chooses to duck out of her own engagement party and chase that waistcoat-wearing rabbit down its hole instead. What follows is half fantastical and half predictable: she's been to "Underland" before but doesn't remember it, so this time she has to slay the Jabberwock, bring down the evil Red Queen and fulfill her destiny as a strong, bloodthirsty female who calls her own shots. In other words, lessons you already learned from watching Spice World.
What's The Deal: Like this 2010 Alice, director Tim Burton's destiny was forecast a long time ago when he embarked on his career as a family-friendly surrealist. Embraced by culture weirdos early on, he's now a cuddly alt-culture option so beloved that they sell Nightmare Before Christmas tree ornaments (I bought the one that's the ogre with the ax embedded into his skull) at Disneyland trinket kiosks. The world caught up with him. That doesn't mean his work lacks value. It's just not anybody's cool, strange secret anymore, if it ever really was. And at the same time I'm all for any oddball with the power to make any kind of movie he wants to make. He's done that, it's very cool to look at, Depp is entertaining, Helena Bonham Carter is memorably crazy, and the too-conventional you-go-girl plotline is just an add-on to the visual cake.
3D Report Card: B- (The problem is Avatar. It blew the curve and now everybody is going to have to bring it in a serious way from here on. This one was, I understand, turned 3D after the fact. So it feels like they didn't think of that technology while creating the stuff you'd be looking at. And if I heard wrong then that just means they were even less imaginative with its use than I thought.)
Dear "Trip Movie" People, You're Going To Be Somewhat Disappointed: I know this one guy who, while in college, used to watch the old animated Disney Alice in Wonderlandand drop acid. I'm not endorsing his behavior. I'm just reporting. And I think that guy is going to be unhappy with this reboot. It's visually beautiful and inventive and dreamlike, but the movie presents it all so matter-of-factly that you're encouraged not to be overwhelmed or regard it as anything resembling a psychedelic experience. Even Alice doesn't seem that bowled over. She's just like, "Oh you're a caterpillar smoking a hookah. Whatever, man."
Middle School-Aged Boys, On The Other Hand, Will Like It Just Fine: If you are a middle school-aged boy reading this, you should know that your needs, based on all the marketing research available, have been met. The product features "chasing" and "peril" and "yelling" and "bloodshed" and "decapitation" and "weapons" and the entire last chunk of the movie is "battle." So you're good to go.