Data Tracker: How Does "Alice in Wonderland" Compare?

  • Publish Date: March 5, 2010
  • Comments: ↓ 9 user comments

Is "Alice" Tim Burton's worst film?

ImageNot so wonderful after all

Easily the biggest release of 2010 so far, Disney's 3-D take on Alice in Wonderland is expected to pull in huge crowds this weekend. But while Lewis Carroll's stories and director Tim Burton's vision seemed like a perfect marriage on paper, many critics are wishing that marriage annulled: the film is drawing some of the worst reviews of Burton's 25-year career. (Of course, all things being relative, a comparatively bad Burton film is still not a "bad" film -- Alice is falling decidedly into "mediocre" territory, rather than being outright terrible.)

How exactly does Alice compare to past films? First, let's look at Burton's track record.

Burton's films at a glance

Alice in Wonderland is the director's 14th feature film; reviews and box office performance for Burton's previous 13 films are summarized below. (Note that Batman Returns is not currently in Metacritic's database). As you can see, most of the director's previous films received positive reviews from users and critics, with his two most recent releases prior to Alice earning him the most positive critical reception of his career.

All Films Directed by Tim Burton
Film Year Rating Metascore Users Opening
Weekend *
Gross *
Pee-Wee's Big Adventure 1985 PG 47 7.8 $9.7M $87.8M
Beetlejuice 1988 PG 67 9.0 $14.9M $136.5M
Batman 1989 PG-13 66 7.9 $77.6M $479.1M
Edward Scissorhands 1990 PG-13 74 7.2 $56.4M $101.7M
Batman Returns 1992 PG-13 xx n/a $83.8M $298.6M
Ed Wood 1994 R 70 9.3 n/a ** $10.7M
Mars Attacks! 1996 PG-13 52 6.2 $16.2M $63.9M
Sleepy Hollow 1999 R 65 7.8 $45.0M $150.6M
Planet of the Apes 2001 PG-13 50 5.3 $92.1M $242.0M
Big Fish 2003 PG-13 57 8.2 $14.9M $81.9M
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 2005 PG 72 6.6 $66.7M $245.1M
Tim Burton's Corpse Bride 2005 PG 83 7.0 n/a ** $63.3M
Sweeney Todd 2007 R 83 7.4 $10.3M $56.9M
Alice in Wonderland 2010 PG 53 5.3 $60-$80M *** ?????
AVERAGES:     64.5 7.3 $44.3M $155.2M

* All box office figures are adjusted for inflation for purposes of comparison
** These films opened in limited release
*** Estimated
The Metascore is a weighted average of scores from top professional critics, on a scale from 0 (bad) to 100 (good). User scores represent an average of scores assigned by site visitors on a scale from 0 (bad) to 10 (good). Source of box office grosses: Box Office Mojo.

While Alice is one of Burton's worst-reviewed films (only three of his previous releases have a lower Metascore than Alice's current mark, and one of those is the beloved cult classic Pee-Wee's Big Adventure), mediocre reviews don't necessarily harm Alice's earning power. Planet of the Apes received a similarly lukewarm critical response, yet boasts Burton's best opening weekend ever, even without adjusting for inflation.

Alice is also by far the lowest-scoring of all the Burton-Johnny Depp collaborations. The second-worst-reviewed of their seven pairings is Sleepy Hollow, a film that received generally positive reviews overall.

The best comparison for the new film is probably 2005's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Burton's last heavily-promoted, PG-rated blockbuster. Without adjusting for inflation, Charlie is Burton's second-highest-grossing film, behind Batman, and it opened on about as many screens as Alice is reaching today. While Alice is projected to have a strong opening weekend (it will likely place among the director's top openers, if not at the very top), the new film is receiving considerably weaker reviews than Charlie -- and it will be interesting to see if those marks have an effect on the movie's long-term performance.

The critics: Do they like "Alice" more than other recent Burton films?

Let's look at how critics who have reviewed multiple Tim Burton films rated Alice in Wonderland. (For these comparisons, we are only considering reviews that are in Metacritic's database. Some newly added critics may have reviewed Burton's films in the past, but if we do not have those reviews on Metacritic, they will not be included in the data summarized below.)

As you may have gathered from the Metascores listed above, most critics prefer any of Burton's recent films to Alice, with Burton's middling Planet of the Apes remake the only exception.

Alice vs. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Comparing Individual Critic Review Scores for the Two Films
2,2,12 2 of 16 critics rated Alice higher
2 of 16 critics rated them about the same
12 of 16 critics rated Alice lower

Of the 10 critics who loved Sweeney Todd and reviewed both films, only one (10%) also loved Alice. (We are using the word "loved" here to indicate that the critic assigned the film an equivalent score of 81 or higher out of 100. If a review is unscored, "loved" means that we interpreted the review to have an equivalent score of 81 or higher.)

Alice vs. Tim Burton's Corpse Bride
Comparing Individual Critic Review Scores for the Two Films
0,3,10 0 of 13 critics rated Alice higher
3 of 13 critics rated them about the same
10 of 13 critics rated Alice lower

Of the seven critics who loved Corpse Bride and reviewed both films, only one (14%) loves Alice.

Alice vs. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Comparing Individual Critic Review Scores for the Two Films
1,3,12 1 of 16 critics rated Alice higher
3 of 16 critics rated them about the same
12 of 16 critics rated Alice lower

Of the six critics who loved Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and reviewed both films, only one (17%) loves Alice.

Again, Charlie is probably the previous Burton film most similar to Alice in Wonderland, and is certainly the one against which Alice's financial success will be measured. Unsurprisingly -- since Charlie received fairly strong reviews overall -- most of the critics in our group liked that earlier film. But two of them did not give Charlie a positive review. Joe Morgenstern was ambivalent about the earlier movie and also had mixed feelings about Alice, while Ann Hornaday gave Charlie its most negative review but likes Alice quite a bit. (In fact, Hornaday tends to grade Burton films much lower than her peers, so her strong review for the new film is a bit of a surprise.)

Alice vs. Big Fish
Comparing Individual Critic Review Scores for the Two Films
3,5,7 3 of 15 critics rated Alice higher
5 of 15 critics rated them about the same
7 of 15 critics rated Alice lower

The one critic (Peter Travers) who loved Big Fish generally likes, but does not love, Alice.

Alice vs. Planet of the Apes [2001]
Comparing Individual Critic Review Scores for the Two Films
7,1,4 7 of 12 critics rated Alice higher
1 of 12 critics rated them about the same
4 of 12 critics rated Alice lower

No critics who reviewed both films loved either film.

It is not surprising that critics seem to prefer Alice in Wonderland to Planet of the Apes -- the latter is Burton's worst-reviewed film, and probably his fans' least favorite as well. It is interesting to note, however, that a handful of reviewers actually preferred Apes to Alice. Two of those critics, Lawrence Toppman and Stephanie Zacharek, actually enjoyed Burton's Apes remake, but the former only slightly approved of Alice, while Zacharek offered a decidedly mixed review of the new film.

Alice vs. Sleepy Hollow
Comparing Individual Critic Review Scores for the Two Films
2,2,9 2 of 13 critics rated Alice higher
2 of 13 critics rated them about the same
9 of 13 critics rated Alice lower

Neither of the two critics who loved Sleepy Hollow and reviewed both films also love Alice, although they each gave Alice a generally positive review.

Some other notes about critics who have reviewed multiple Tim Burton movies:

  • USA Today's Claudia Puig loved each of Burton's last three films, and is just as enthusiastic a supporter of Alice in Wonderland. The same can be said for critic David Edelstein.
  • Dating back to Ed Wood, Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman has reviewed all of Burton's films (with the exception of Sweeney Todd), and gave all but Planet of the Apes a positive review. You can say he's a Burton fan; his average review score for those seven films was 80 out of 100. However, his decidedly mixed 50 score for Alice (a C grade in the magazine) marks his lowest score for a Burton film in at least the past 16 years.
  • Rolling Stone's Peter Travers has a similar tendency to like Burton films; he has given the director's movies an average score of 80 dating back to Sleepy Hollow. His score of 63 for Alice, while still representing a mostly positive review, is his second-lowest score for a Burton film in that time period (only Planet of the Apes was lower).

Comparing "Alice" to other 3-D releases

How does Alice in Wonderland compare to other recent 3-D films? In terms of reviews from critics, not well: it is in the bottom half of 3-D releases from the past two years. As you can see, however, the mediocre reviews do not necessarily translate into a poor showing at the box office. Several similarly-reviewed, PG-rated 3-D films went on to gross close to $200 million in the U.S. alone.

Of course, reviews have little impact on the opening weekend of a film when tickets are sold out for many showings well before the reviews are published. Based on early tracking, Alice has a chance for the biggest-ever opening weekend for any 3-D film -- an honor currently held by Avatar.

Recent 3-D Films (2008-10), Ranked by Metascore
  Film Year Rating Metascore Users Opening
Domestic Gross
1 Up 2009 PG 88 8.9 $68.1M $293.0M
2 Avatar 2009 PG-13 84 8.0 $77.0M $712.5M
3 Coraline 2009 PG 80 7.8 $16.8M $75.3M
4 Under the Sea 3D 2009 G 77 5.4 $0.7M $20.7M
5 Bolt 2008 PG 67 7.9 $26.2M $114.1M
6 Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2009 PG 66 7.8 $30.3M $124.8M
7 Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour 2008 G 59 4.5 $31.1M $65.3M
8 Journey to the Center of the Earth 2008 PG 57 4.8 $21.0M $101.7M
9 Monsters vs. Aliens 2009 PG 56 6.8 $59.3M $198.4M
10 A Christmas Carol [2009] 2009 PG 55 7.6 $30.1M $137.9M
11 Battle for Terra 2009 PG 54 7.4 $1.1M $1.6M
12 Alice in Wonderland 2010 PG 53 5.3 ????? ?????  
13 My Bloody Valentine 3-D 2009 R 51 7.7 $21.2M $51.5M
14 Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs 2009 PG 50 7.0 $41.7M $196.6M
15 Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience 2009 NR 45 2.0 $12.5M $19.2M
16 X Games 3D The Movie 2009 PG 43 7.0 $0.8M $1.4M
17 G-Force 2009 PG 41 4.0 $31.7M $119.4M
18 Fly Me to the Moon 2008 G 36 1.3 $1.9M $13.8M
19 The Final Destination 2009 R 30 4.8 $27.4M $66.5M
  AVERAGES:     57.5 6.1 $27.7M $128.5M

Comparing "Alice" to recent Disney releases

Below, we compare Alice in Wonderland to other recent releases from Disney, including Walt Disney Pictures, Disneynature, and Touchstone releases. Just four of the 14 wide release Disney films from the past 12 months received positive reviews from critics.

Films Released by Disney in the Past 12 Months
Film Release Rating Metascore Users Opening
Domestic Gross
Alice in Wonderland 3/05/10 PG 53 5.3 ????? ?????  
When in Rome 1/29/10 PG-13 25 6.5 $12.4M $31.1M*
The Princess & The Frog 11/25/09 G 73 7.9 $24.2M $103.4M*
Old Dogs 11/25/09 PG 19 3.9 $16.9M $48.8M
A Christmas Carol [2009] 11/6/09 PG 55 7.6 $30.1M $137.9M
Surrogates 9/25/09 PG-13 45 5.6 $14.9M $38.6M
X Games 3D The Movie 8/21/09 PG 43 7.0 $0.8M $1.4M
Ponyo 8/14/09 PG 86 7.5 $3.6M $15.1M
G-Force 7/24/09 PG 41 4.0 $31.7M $119.4M
The Proposal 6/19/09 PG-13 48 6.8 $33.6M $164.0M
Up 5/29/09 PG 88 8.9 $68.1M $293.0M
Earth [2009] 4/22/09 G 72 5.4 $8.8M $32.0M
Hannah Montana the Movie 4/10/09 NR 47 4.7 $32.3M $79.6M
Race to Witch Mountain 3/13/09 PG 52 7.0 $24.4M $67.2M
AVERAGES:     53.4 6.3 $23.5M $90.0M

* Still in theaters
All scores are from March 5, 2010. Limited releases are excluded.

We're sorry, but comments are closed for this article.

Comments (9)

  • finn  

    Ponyo isn`t by disney, for god`s sake...

  • Ekt01  

    Ponyo was distributed by Disney, for god's sake...

  • Jermal  

    they talking about movies made and/or distributed by Disney. Ponyo was distributed by Disney and they hired english speaking voice actors and also it's was inspired by disney's Little mermaid.

  • steve  

    Where's Nightmare before Christmas?

  • batman  

    Nightmare Before Christmas probably isn't on here because Burton didn't direct it. He produced and wrote, but didn't direct.

  • Amy  

    Steve they're talking movies directed by Tim, Henry Selick directed Nightmare. If they added movies Tim produced, 9 would be there too.

  • thomas  

    wow looking a these stats tim burton is worse then i thought. Ed Wood is probably his best movie apart from Batman although i am more then a little fond of pee wee i must admit! btw i thought alice was very average even though it had its moments

  • Nydcat  

    Actually Disney is only the north american distributor. The movie has been produced by studio Gibly and The Little Mermaid has been writen by Hans Christian Andersen in 1837.

  • djkparry  


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