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It took me almost the entire summer to see this film. It’s not through the fault of others (though I had wanted to see it with other people), but somehow other, good to great films came along and I saw those. And I had to drive to see this movie too (I’m largely anti-driving today, given the fact that part of this review is being written on a train).

On to the movie, which by and large is quite good. When broken down, the situations can apply to just about anyone in a relationship, both heterosexual and homosexual, but given the twist of having the main couple as a lesbian couple with children (that, pardon my French, are fucked up but not too fucked up, which describes every single child in the history of humankind), some different things can be done with the formula.

If there is a glaring weakness, it’s Ruffalo’s character, Paul. It’s not his fault; the role of the schlep-like surrogate is perfect for him. What doesn’t work out well is the eventual recasting of him as the antagonist, wherein he becomes more of an opportunist and tries to get more involved in the family when things turn south. The shift is subtle enough, but it ruins the character, who throughout the film, despite his nonchalant attitude, comes off as a rather likable self-made man. Credit to Ruffalo for bringing that charm.

That change occurs during the third act, but the ending does wrap things up nicely. The first two acts are much stronger: much of the scenes of everyone meeting the first time is appropriately clumsy and embarrassing. Each scene tends to bring out the worst in the characters in often hilarious effect: Nic (Bening) is a raging alcoholic, Jules (Moore) is too analytical and micromanages everything, Paul offends everyone and then takes back everything he says to try and not offend anyone, and Joni and Laser (Wasikowska and Hutcherson) just want to get away from the table, period.  Jules ends up going to work with Paul, and their fling covers the second act.  Paul, being Paul, enjoys the sex, while Jules looks for acceptance and gets it with Paul.

The film is essentially a slice of life, just skewed in a way, with each character facing troubles and dealing with them in sometimes conventional and unconventional ways.  It’s entertaining, often times quite hilarious, and touching as well.  Save for the stumble in the third act, you can’t go wrong with this film.

So yes, it’s been out for two months already, and if you haven’t seen it yet, go ahead and do so.  You’ll enjoy it.

A-

WARNING: this review may contain spoilers.

Disney UK, huh?  Ah well.

I had started reading this book a month or so ago, after getting it from my sister (who had found it online for her eReader).  The text was highly butchered to such an extent that it was very difficult to read.  At some point, I will have to find a new file to download.

I mention this mainly to see how the book compares to Tim Burton’s movie (well, according to Wikipedia, it’s an “extension” of the stories (“Alice in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass”), whatever that means), and to get an idea of what the story is about.

Which I think Burton got, at least in this extension (the movie explains along the way that Alice has been in Underland (her Wonderland) once before, in much the same role as she was now).  Visually, the movie looks great, at least when it’s not in 3-D.  The animated backdrops are all decidedly Burton-esque: the corkscrew tree limbs, the scorched earth, and the chess-inspired battlefield are all examples.  The characters in Wonderland too are Burton: Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter is probably the best example (more on him later), but every character has that touch, between the real life actors (Helena Bonham Carter’s overly large head, Anne Hathaway’s bleached white White Queen, Crispin Glover’s over-sized and stilt-like Knave of Hearts) and the animated ones (the Cheshire Cat, the Bandersnatch, the various small animals that inhabit Wonderland).

Unfortunately, the 3-D doesn’t work.  Checking Wikipedia, the movie was originally filmed in 2-D before converting to 3-D, and it shows.  Much of the 3-D is the gimmicky kind, though there are also some 3-D background overlays, but all in all, it’s wasted.  At some point I will have to watch the movie again in 2-D to get a better idea of how it really looks.  I imagine in looks great in 2-D.

As for the movie itself… it’s fine in the narrative sense, though it seems a little empty, almost like a going-through-the-motions kind of feel to it.  Alice shows up, slowly learns (well, relearns) about Wonderland, fights against but eventually accepts destiny, everyone goes home happy.  The filming, while competent, is largely uninspired.  The concluding battle, while short and sweet, was also largely unnecessary (it also has the criminal act of having an impossibly large creature – it made a point of stomping around upon arrival onto the battlefield – move so stealthily that it was able to sneak up on Alice).  Some of the better parts in the film come when she’s fighting against her destined call (fighting and defeating the Jabberwocky), and there are some good individual scenes as well (Carter yelling “Off with his/her head” is fun, Alice’s first meeting with the Hatter at his house is quite hilarious at times, and the Cheshire cat, whenever he shows up, is often a treat).

Actually, anything with the Mad Hatter was quite good in the film, mostly because of Johnny Depp.  The trailer only shows him with that lisp-y voice (the gap in the tooth adds to that effect), but the Hatter under Depp is also a man with an uncontrollable rage, an insecurity with regards to loneliness, and at times, often quite courageous.  The costume and makeup work on the Hatter is excellent: only once or twice I thought it was Depp beneath the makeup, and even then I thought it wasn’t.  Depp is a great actor, and this role only adds to it.

Some of the other performances are decent as well, though I wasn’t a big fan of Hathaway’s White Queen.  Maybe it was the way she was written, but she comes off far too prim and proper instead of mere elegance (the way her arms and hands are raised constantly suggests more of the former than the latter).  Carter was quite good as the Red Queen, and Mia Wasikowska, while far from perfect, does a decent job of portraying Alice as a rebel wanting to break free from the restrictions of 19th century Victorian society.

In the end though, while the visuals outside of the 3-D were nice, the story just didn’t draw me in like I hoped it too.  Like I said, I would like to visit this again in 2-D, and maybe then I might get a better appreciation for it.  For now though…

B-