The Verdict on This Weekend's Movies: "Alice in Wonderland" and More

  • Publish Date: March 4, 2010
  • Comments: ↓ 1 user comment

Our weekly roundup offers a brief look at this week's new film releases. For a full selection of reviews for these and many more films, visit Metacritic Movies. [Scores updated 3/6 1:00p]

Alice in averageland

The year's biggest release to date -- in terms of marketing efforts, budget and expectations -- arrives at cineplexes this weekend. But Alice in Wonderland isn't receiving the quality of reviews one would expect from such a pairing between a visionary director (Tim Burton) and imaginative source material (Lewis Carroll's stories). Alice is wonderful, however, compared to the weekend's only other major release, which certainly won't be reversing director Antoine Fuqua's recent slide into mediocrity. Here's how this week's new films stack up:

This Week's Major Releases, Head to Head
Movie Release Rating Genre Metascore Critic Grades Users
Alice in Wonderland WIDE PG Fantasy 53 18,16,4 5.4
Brooklyn's Finest WIDE R Cop Drama 43 6,24,3 5.5
Compare to the "best" wide releases from recent weeks:
The Crazies 2/26 R Horror 55 14,12,3 6.9
Shutter Island 2/19 R Thriller 62 25,7,4 7.0
Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief 2/12 PG Teen Fantasy 47 9,18,4 6.6

Alice in Wonderland 53

Tim Burton's Last 5 Films
Sweeney Todd (2007) 83
Corpse Bride (2005) 83
Charlie and the
Chocolate Factory
Big Fish (2003) 57
Planet of the Apes (2001) 50

Only loosely based on Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, Tim Burton's highly-anticipated, live-action/CGI hybrid take on Alice is the first major 3-D release since Avatar. It's the first starring role for young Australian actress Mia Wasikowska, and the film also reunites Burton with actor Johnny Depp for the seventh time.

What the critics like: The comedic performances by many of the supporting actors -- like Michael Sheen, Matt Lucas and Stephen Fry -- are drawing praise from a number of reviewers, as is Helena Bonham Carter's scene-stealing turn as the Red Queen. Some critics also like a portion of the film's CGI animation -- in fact, the Hollywood Reporter calls the film "gorgeous." Roger Ebert also admires the look of the film, and recommends seeing it in 2-D, where the images will be "brighter and more colorful." Some critics feel that the material and Burton's imagination make for a good match.

What they don't like: Wasikowska's performance -- though not bad -- is unable to overcome her character's barely-there presence. Many critics aren't happy with the 3-D treatment -- which can be distracting and (literally) pales in comparison to films like Avatar -- and not everyone is fond of the look of the film. (The New York Times, for example, calls it "garish.") Depp's performance also is drawing rare criticism; the New York Observer's Christopher Rosen observes that "he acts like even being on set was a chore," and Time Out New York labels Depp's Mad Hatter "unmemorable." The story is a major problem for a number of reviewers, who felt that Burton (or Disney) tried too hard to make the film like a Lord of the Rings or Narnia movie (some even compared it to a videogame or Dungeons & Dragons). In addition to strongly disapproving of the battle-heavy third act, many critics find the first act's pre-Wonderland/Underland scenes (centering on Alice's engagement party) "tedious" (Los Angeles Times) or "unbearable, leaden and doomy and generically plotted" (Austin Chronicle). And the Wall Street Journal's Joe Morgenstern speaks for several critics when he finds the movie surprisingly conventional for a Burton film; the A.V. Club similarly derides the film as "frustratingly impersonal."

Brooklyn's Finest 43

Antoine Fuqua's Last 5 Films *
Shooter (2007) 53
King Arthur (2004) 46
Tears of the Sun (2003) 48
Training Day (2001) 70
Bait (2000) 39

* Documentaries excluded

Antoine Fuqua directs Richard Gere, Ethan Hawke and Don Cheadle in a gritty, low-budget ensemble cop drama that has been partially re-shot since it debuted at Sundance in 2009 to mildly positive response. The film switches between three different storylines, all involving NYPD officers facing a crossroads.

What the critics like: Many critics praised the performances given by the talented cast, including supporting actors Wesley Snipes, Vincent D'Onofrio, and Ellen Barkin. The New York Observer lauds the film's tension, noting, "There are moments so nerve-racking one is actually afraid to look directly at the screen."

What they don't like: The film is very violent and very dark in tone. Several critics liked Gere's performance, but the Observer notes that he is miscast as an extremely down-in-the-dumps cop. The movie is also too long, at 140 minutes. But the biggest recurring complaint is with the film's stale, conventional, overly familiar story. The A.V. Club's Nathan Rabin argues that Brooklyn's Finest is so cliché-ridden that "the film skirts self-parody," and that word "cliché" appears in many other reviews as well. (As Entertainment Weekly points out, there's even a prostitute with a heart of gold.) Many critics also spend time talking about all the things Fuqua's film is missing, such as "a point" (Variety), or "assurance of tone" (Boston Globe). The latter reflects upon the film's direction, and WSJ's Morgenstern adds to the chorus of naysayers by calling Fuqua's style "ludicrous," while the Arizona Republic declares that he's merely "copycatting the style and techniques of better directors." And Rolling Stone's Peter Travers -- in the most negative published review so far -- goes even further, stating that Brooklyn's Finest appears "untouched by human hands, or by a director." (He also uses words like "shallow," "dumb," "derivative," and "obnoxious.")

In limited release this week

The Secret of Kells 87 -- better know as the movie that elicited a giant "Huh?" when announced as one of the five Academy Award nominees for best animated film -- finally arrives in select theaters this weekend. The Irish import is drawing acclaim from American critics so far.

Next week in Metacritic

Opening wide next Friday, March 12th, are the Matt Damon/Paul Greengrass thriller Green Zone, the Robert Pattinson-Emilie de Ravin romance Remember Me, and the R-rated comedy She's Out of My League. Here are the trailers:

Full Movie Release Calendar

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Comments (1)

  • Jix Hedgehog  

    Alice was the most so-so movie of all time. Went with my wife who is all about Disney and even she was bored

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