Alice In Wonderland (PG) ★★★☆

A Magical Modernized Version of A Classic Tale

Tim Burton unites with his old pal Disney Pictures to direct a ‘new’ movie version of the classic Lewis Carroll fantasy fairy tale. The film is stunningly beautiful, ultra creative and vividly colorful. The 3D and special effects are what makes this film so special, along with the addition of amazing ‘real actors.’ Burton has found the right mix here as viewers are sure to have a reaction of utter amazement! 

He’s assembled an all-star cast of characters that inhabit ‘Wonderland’ and Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter leads the charge. The Red Queen; Helena Bonham Carter, The White Queen; Anne Hathaway and newcomer Mia Wasikowska portrays a 19-year-old Alice. Not to be left out is the ever distinguishable voice of Alan Rickman as the hookah-smoking Blue Caterpillar. 

Wonderland is a magical place where most anything is possible and most things are not as they seem. Alice, as a 19-year-old, knows that this is a place she has visited many times in her dreams. We see her as a 10-year-old in the traditional light blue dress with the white collar in the early days of her visits. The older Alice has four costume changes from soft beautiful dresses to a sleek, shinny, silver-coated suit of armor. She’s an empowered Alice as she states rather boldly, “This is my dream and I’ll make the decisions here!” The performance by Wasikowska was spot-on as she’s curious, determined and at the same time, relentless in her quest. These attitudes which are eminent to the script, rang loud and clear! 

The beginning of the film shows Alice in traditional Victorian English clothing attending a party with controlling and stuffy adults. She’s about to give her hand in marriage to a ‘dork’ of a guy who she could care less about. It’s interesting to spot these party-goers are in the dream in one form or another. Alice does spy a white rabbit and begins to chase the furry fellow who leads her to the famous ‘Rabbit Hole.’ As she’s falling through the hole, Burton gives us an unexpected amusement park ride, one in which you feel as though you are the one who is actually falling. Thrilling special effects and an exciting beginning to Alice’s adventures in Wonderland!

Wonderland is both magical and fascinating. One minute Alice is very tiny and the next she is humongous! Kids will delight in her physical changes as they add to the fantasy. 

The Mad Hatter is simply fun. He’s as scatter-brained as the memorable character Uncle Albert played by Ed Wynn in (Mary Poppins 1964). Children and adults delight in this type of wacky, off-beat, character as the unpredictability is the ace card here. The tea party Alice attends is as crazy as we’d expect; simply amusing and child-like. Johnny Depp gives his own spin to the character; sometimes he wins (Jack Sparrow-Pirates of the Caribbean) and sometimes he losses (Willy Wonka- (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 2005). In this case, he wins. The red hair, wild make-up and Mad Hatter-detailed costume are tremendous. Depp is charming, silly and a surefire nut case; but above all, he’s Alice’s protector and friend.

The Red Queen is by far the silliest looking character who also has some of the best lines in the film. Her extra large head is hysterical! Every time she screams,”Off with their heads!” kids will giggle. In the original tale, I remember being terribly frightened of her; here, she’s over the top operating in Queen hyper-mode, which equals ridiculous.

The younger sister, ‘The White Queen,’ is beautifully portrayed by Anne Hathaway. I don’t remember this character too much in the original tale, but I really liked her in this one. She counter balances the good vs. evil aspect of the story. This character’s actions are accentuated as well. Slow deliberate movements with sugary sweet dialogue. Again, simply fun and gorgeous to watch. This queen’s costume is stunning– a sure-fire addition to the Halloween costumes come this Fall.

The last part of the film portrays Alice as the savior of Wonderland as she’s the appointed hero of the hour. She must slay the very dark, red-eyed flying jabberwocky for all to be safe. I didn’t mind this scene although I thought it was a bit too violent and ventured away from the light-hearted tone of the tale. The scene was also way too long. (My only slight objection with this wonderful film).

I applaud Tim Burton and Disney for bringing families a modernized version of this classic tale. A spectacular effort and one that can be enjoyed by all; although I would caution children under the age of seven may be frightened of the over-sized big-mouthed teeth filled dog and the flying jabberwocky; a dragon of sorts.

“Child of the pure unclouded brow 
And dreaming eyes of wonder! 
Though time be fleet, and I and thou 
Are half a life asunder, 
Thy loving smile will surely hail 
The love-gift of a fairy-tale.”

By Lewis Carroll “Alice Through the Looking Glass”

Sarah Adamson © March 2010