I went to a 2-D screening of Tim Burton‘s Alice in Wonderland last night at 11:15 pm at the Lincoln Square. For 17 minutes they ran a series of excruciating trailers for some awful-looking family-friendly films (the absolute worst being Roger Kumble‘s Furry Vengeance) before starting the main feature. I was ready to leave because of the trailers alone. The family market is a sludge depository — a genre that attracts mediocre talent like a magnet.

And then Alice finally began. Because the tint of Burton’s talent is ten times more appealing than Kumble’s, I felt initially relieved. And then I began to gradually pull back. And then I became distracted. And then bored. But I made it through to the end, which in my realm is saying something.

I didn’t despise Alice, but I didn’t care for it much either. I should be more explicit and say that I didn’t hate it altogether. A lot of it looks…well, quite expensive. It diverts with some lovely CG renderings. It’s clearly been made by a first-rate artist-professional with an obviously developed visual signature. Some aspects were visually appealing enough (the rasberry-popsicle helmet hair worn by Helena Bonham Carter‘s Red Queen, Johnny Depp‘s luminous green eyes and pumpkin-colored coif) to make me nod in appreciation.

But it was awfully hard to hear the dialogue. Partly because it was so whispery (I twice begged the staff to turn the sound up), and partly because of the primly Victorian British accents that for some reason just weren’t easily decipherable. I understood some of what was being said, but only about 50% to 60%, I’d say. I’d hear a word or phrase and then piece it together. But I didn’t give a damn about the story in the least. My task was to sit through it without giving up in disgust, and I did that. There’s enough high-end fantasy art to keep the eyes sated or filled like tanks of gas..

But the energy levels in the one-third filled house (which looked to me like mostly Hispanic Eloi) were completely flat There’s no way Alice won’t drop by at least 60% or 65% next weekend. It just wasn’t playing all that well.