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LA TIMES: Alice In OKland

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KENNETH TURNAN: One pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small, and the pills Tim Burton gives you don’t do very much at all. With apologies to Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit,” that more or less sums up “Alice in Wonderland,” the director’s middling new version of the Lewis Carroll tale. It has its successful moments but it’s surprisingly inert overall, more like a Burton derivative than something he actually did himself. […] Given the strength of Burton’s imagination, it’s not surprising that many of these creatures are engaging, especially if, like that rabbit, they are voiced by top British actors. The unsettling Cheshire Cat ( Stephen Fry) is hard to forget, as are Absolem the Blue Caterpillar ( Alan Rickman), Bayard the Bloodhound (Timothy Spall) and fright legend Christopher Lee as the dread Jabberwocky. Rather less satisfying is the script’s notion that the creatures spend much of their time bickering as to whether this Alice is the same person who came down the rabbit hole a decade earlier and, if she is, whether she has “lost her muchness” in the intervening years. They even give her a hard time for getting the name of the location wrong: It’s Underland, she’s disdainfully told, not Wonderland. These disputes soon become tiresome, even if one of Alice’s champions is played by Johnny Depp. His Mad Hatter is a genuine fashionista whom we get to see designing wacky headgear like there is no tomorrow. There’s no denying Depp’s gifts and abilities, but this performance feels both indulgent and something we’ve all seen before. What is even more unfortunate is the film’s attempt to turn itself into an Underland version of “The Lord of the Rings,” complete with massed forces of good and evil inevitably headed toward a sadly generic CGI battle to end all battles. MORE

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