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This week I got to see two movies, both dealing in some way with madness, and neither of which I was crazy about.


Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland starts with a young Alice (for some reason wearing copious amounts of makeup to bed) having nightmares about falling down a hole into a land full of impossibly strange creatures, but then flashes forward to 19 year-old Alice who is still having trouble sleeping, as well as trouble fitting in. When cornered by a very public engagement proposal, Alice takes some time to think about what she really wants to do and follows the white rabbit down the rabbit hole to a curious land where the impossibly strange creatures already seem to know her and have high expectations for her to rise as a champion, slay the jabberwocky, and end the reign of the Red Queen.

When I saw the previews for Burton’s vision of the classic children’s book with Alice as an adult and Wonderland taking on a decidedly darker hue than previous adaptations, I was skeptical. After viewing the film, however, these decisions became my favorite part of the movie. I appreciate that rather than just creating a remake of a story that is already iconic, Burton has approached it from a different angle and played with the characters, taking them in a new direction. I thought Alice’s dreams actually being memories of an earlier adventure in Wonderland was a really nice touch. Playing up the Gothic elements of the text with the dark, saturated color scheme, and sometimes violent bent, adds some edge back to the story. This is an Alice in Wonderland adaptation for grown-ups. Kudos to the art department, makeup artists, and costumers.

While madness in Alice in Wonderland is often interpreted as silliness, the team of Burton-Bonham Carter-Depp give it a more disturbing tone, working with back-stories involving jealousy, power struggles, and betrayal that add some flesh to the fantastical characters. As Alice, Mia Wasikowska is pretty hit and miss. Sometimes she’s great, but other times she lacks the charm not to be washed out by her dramatic surroundings. As the White Queen, Anne Hathaway is quirky and funny.

Generally, Alice in Wonderland has a lot of spectacular footage to offer, but the spirit of adventure and fun has gone out of the story, leaving it feeling flat. The most interesting part of the film is wondering how Burton got Helena Bonham Carter’s head to look so big.

Alice in Wonderland runs 108 minutes and is rated PG for fantasy action/violence involving scary images and situations, and for a smoking caterpillar (Yes, PG for a smoking caterpillar).

3.5/5 stars


Shutter Island the latest film from Martin Scorsese, stars Leonardo DiCaprio as U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels, a widower investigating the disappearance of a patient and possible malpractice at Shutter Island, a hospital for the criminally insane, where he believes the man responsible for his wife’s death is being held. On Shutter Island, however, everything is very, very different from how it seems.

The movie has some genuinely interesting elements, dealing with debates over the rights of the mentally ill, survivor’s guilt, post-traumatic stress, anger over the Holocaust, and the Red Scare. There are also some intriguing moments of surrealism in Teddy’s dreams. On the other hand, the ending of the movie is really shopworn and doesn’t seem to totally fit with the development of the story. I think the screenplay could have used a couple more revisions. On top of that, there are some ridiculously heavy-handed details. Just when I was starting to get into the story, there’s a scene with bright lightning strikes illuminating grotesque-looking statues. It was so sudden and over-the-top in its clichéness, I started to have a giggle fit. Something tells me that was not the desired reaction.

Shutter Island is a good movie that’s certainly worth watching, but the many good parts don’t work together to create the great film for which Scorsese is known.

Shutter Island runs 138 minutes and is rated R for disturbing violent content, language, and some nudity.

3/5 stars

Kasey Butcher

Kasey Butcher

She is proud to be a Ft. Wayne native, a graduate of Homestead HS, Ball State University & Miami University. She became involved with journalism editor-in-chief for her high school magazine. She authors the "At The Movies with Kasey Butcher" review. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer