Dinner and a Movie: Alice in Wonderland

Because we went to the movie early and Vladimir was still quite full from his lunch, we chose to go to the movie before dinner. Still, I hadn’t eaten a lot so upon entering the theater I was easy pray for the scent of cinnamon roasted almonds in the table as one enters the theater. Kudos to that business. They’re always yummy.

The Movie:

Vladimir summed  it up best when we walked out of the movie. It missed the magic of Wonderland.

The biggest reason for this is that writer Linda Woolverton, with director Tim Burton’s help, bent the whimsy of Wonderland to preach a message. There are two messages she seems to be going for. One comes in the silly frame story in which we’re shown that “marriage is the same as death of the imagination or intellect” line. Of course, to make the argument work she must ignore the fact that even though Alice didn’t like corsets or stockings and was easily distracted by beauty, she probably liked boys and looked forward to getting married and hoped for something romantic like most girls her age. And then, of course, the only choice she is given is between a nitwit of a lord and not getting married.

She follows the white rabbit again, having forgotten what happened before except as a dream. In fact, that is one of the problems. There is nothing new in Wonderland, so Woolverton and Burton must make her rediscover it all. This means we get to see her make all the same mistakes and introductions again though this time in a darker world. So while this is supposed to be about regaining imagination and believing in the impossible (another preached message, but one with more truth and common to “enter fairyland” type movies), there doesn’t seem to be much imagination in this movie. The quest turns out to be a cliched “Find the sword, become the champion, and slay the dragon” quest. Literally. Having a girl do it doesn’t redeem it.

Alice had two hero’s hesitations. One of them is another message: I must follow the path I choose. And it is a silly message here because she loves wonderland and has no reason not to choose the path of saving it, except to be obstinate about getting her own way. And this could have so easily been turned into the moral dilemma “Save Wonderland or Hatter?” Her second hero’s hesitation is even more flimsy. She says over and over again that she couldn’t kill if her life depended on it. It isn’t because she’s afraid, because she goes into great danger to rescue her friends. We’re given nothing, no where in the movie, to back up her protests that she can’t kill anything. It fades away for no real reason in the end, letting her accomplish the task they’ve asked her to do from the beginning.

Lack of motivation for actions runs through the entire movie. It is especially damning at the end. What in her world was enough motivation to make her go back to it? There is nothing that needs her up above, and in the movie Underland is real. She has no ties but the parental one she leaves behind anyway. Why didn’t she stay in Wonderland, where we see what might be a budding romance between her and the Mad Hatter. Where she could also be something strange and wonderful and powerful? Where there is a true happy ending? Instead, she comes back and decides to go into business with an old guy that accepts this 20 year old girl as an equal. In Victorian England. Yeah. We know what’s on his mind. Plus he gets to control her money too. So it turns out that despite the fluttering around and happy music at the end of the movie,  this is a disturbing dark ending. Because either Woolverton or Burton hasn’t dropped the hint that it is a dark ending, because they might believe in their silly messages, it appears to be a happy ending. The ones least likely to see through it are the ones most likely to be harmed by the lie that a person with much more experience than a you, that for some magical reason is picking you, is doing it out of respect rather than the desire to take advantage. Did a girl write this? Really?

I loved Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter though. He is revealed to be in rebellion against the Red Queen and her harmful excesses. It’s fantastic how whenever he actually says something in that capacity he loses his innocent madness and becomes dark voiced and Scottish in accent. Plus he just looked interesting.

But the White Queen, played Anne Hathaway who I usually like as an actress, had bizarre hand fluttering which distracted so much from the character that I couldn’t take her seriously even as an eccentric. Mia Wasikowski does a competent but uninspiring job. But it might be hard to do anything with the often repetitive and whiny lines she had.

The look of the movie was what drew us in and it is enough that we’ll probably own it. We’d bought a triptych of posters before we even saw it. The gnarly trees (a Tim Burton signature) were backdrop to “Underland” whether the land was ravaged or not. And either way, they looked good – contrasting lush scenes and emphasizing scorched earth. There were a few missteps. The CGI of the Red Queen’s champion on his horse looked fake through out. Not surprisingly with Burton, things looked more often decrepit than not, another disappointing detail in which the magic of Wonderland was ultimately buried by the conceits of its writer and director.


Usually, this section is going to be about some new restaurant we’ve gone to. But our plans to start reviewing hadn’t cemented yet and after the almonds, we really weren’t that hungry. It wasn’t  late and we hadn’t arranged dinner for the kids or ordered them to scrounge the fridge and pantry. But it was too late for us to want to start dinner. So we picked up some Chinese food from Rice King Express in South Jordan.

You can already tell by the name what kind of a place it is. In the brightly lit and sparsely decorated dining room, there are a few token tables to let patrons eat there, but it is mostly a venue for takeout. Always clean, with friendly cashiers and a  family dinner at $28, we go there relatively often. It’s certainly better than fast food chains.

The fried rice and noodles are average. The sweet and sour pork is sometimes overcooked, though this time it was perfect. But overcooked or not, there is always too much batter. This holds even more true for the shrimp that comes with the family dinner, which sometimes sport the sheen of more grease than I’d like to consume.

What we really like is their orange chicken.  I’m not sure I’ve tasted better anywhere else. The chicken, this time with the breading just right for the purpose, is nestled onto shredded cabbage and all of it drenched in the sauce. The sauce sports just the right amount of hot and sweet and citrus, none of it overpowering. Besides being a compliment in both texture and taste, the cabbage serves as a way to taste more sauce without it just being sauce when all the chicken is gone. We sometimes just get a couple of orders of the orange chicken to go with rice we’ve cooked ourselves for dinner.

There are better sit down Chinese restaurants in the area, but Rice King Express is the best restaurant focusing take out around here.

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