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New on DVD: 'Alice in Wonderland' and 'The Wolfman'

Posted 1:55pm on Wednesday, Jun. 02, 2010

Alice in Wonderland

Like a screeching toddler on a Skittles bender, Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland rants and raves, sputters and squeals, working itself into pure frenzy. All of the Burton trademarks are here, though lately they play more like insufferable tics: the fussily art-directed images, the cartoonishly ghoulish Danny Elfman score, the "Look, Ma, I'm a weirdo" Johnny Depp performance (he plays the Mad Hatter). What is missing are the same things that were missing from other recent Burton pictures, including Sweeney Todd (2007) and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005). Deeper emotions. Larger purpose. A sense of control over the material. Working from a screenplay by Linda Woolverton, who doesn't so much adapt Lewis Carroll's classic children's books as strenuously riff upon them, Alice in Wonderland opens with 19-year-old Alice (Mia Wasikowska) attending a party where a sniveling young man (Leo Bill) is about to ask for her hand in marriage. Terrified by the prospect of a bloodless future, Alice spies a rabbit nervously bouncing around the estate grounds and chases him down a hole. But Burton and Woolverton have taken Carroll's blissfully illogical story and tamed it into an all-too-familiar tale of young female empowerment. Alice must take up arms against the evil Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) to restore power to the kindly White Queen (Anne Hathaway). It plays like the poor man's version of The Chronicles of Narnia.

The Wolfman, a somber yet ultimately silly take on the 1941 classic The Wolf Man, revolves around Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro), a man trying to solve the savage murder of his brother (Simon Merrells). Considering how much trouble reportedly plagued its production, The Wolfman isn't the disaster that it might have been. But it's not particularly compelling, either.

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