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In Review: Alice In Wonderland

Updated on March 10, 2010

Do you plan on seeing Alice In Wonderland?

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Not For Young Kids

Do you have fond memories of reading Alice In Wonderland as a child and are curious as to how Lewis Carroll’s quirky characters are depicted in the latest film adaptation? Are you a fan of Tim Burton’s movies and would gladly go to see anything that wanders out of his mind? Could it be that you’re interested in seeing a Disney movie that doesn’t talk down to the audience? If you answered “yes” to any or all of these than its quite likely that the new Alice In Wonderland is for you.

Set in Victorian England, the new Alice In Wonderland, to put it simply, tells the story of what happened after the original story ended. Like many young women of the mid 1800s, nineteen year old Alice Kingsley (Mia Wasikowska) is faced with a dilemma. While she dreams of having adventures and leading a life of her own choosing, Alice is bound by duty to marry whomever her mother deems appropriate. When the movie opens, Alice is on her way to a party that she will soon learn by chance is her engagement party. Realizing that she cannot give up on her dreams so easily, Alice chases after a strangely familiar white rabbit (Michael Sheen) and falls down a strangely familiar rabbit hole. Once in Wonderland (or in this version, Underland), Alice learns that the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) has been terrorizing her friends once more. She also learns that the only way the Red Queen can be defeated is if Alice slays the Queen’s Jabberwocky (Christopher Lee). Hearing of Alice’s presence in Underland, the Red Queen orders the Knave of Hearts (Crispin Glover) to find Alice and behead her. Will Alice return home headless? Can Alice free the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) from the Red Queen’s castle? What is keeping the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) from overthrowing the Red Queen? To learn the answers to these questions, you must see the movie!

Directed by Tim Burton with a script by Linda Woolverton, the new Alice In Wonderland is an interesting, but flawed concept. Visually, it’s everything you would expect and more from the likes of Tim Burton. Yet, story wise it leaves you wanting more in parts and less in others. Speaking specifically, with such a build up, the ending feels rushed and choppy. As hinted at previously, this isn’t exactly a children’s movie. For one thing, you see heads getting lopped off and past decapitated heads float about in the Queen’s moat. For another, a once colorful and cautiously inviting Wonderland has been turned into a dark, depressing Underland. If your children (or you) expect to see a Wonderland similar to that of the 1951 cartoon, you will be sorely disappointed. Acting wise, Burton has recruited his usual talents (Depp, Carter, Alan Rickman and Timothy Spall) and added in a few newcomers (Wasikowska, Sheen, Glover, and Hathaway) all of whom do their best to make the movie a success. As you would expect, Depp and Carter outshine the rest and make you laugh inappropriately.

For anyone whoever wondered what may have happened after Carroll’s sequel to his original Alice fable, Through The Looking Glass, the latest telling of the Wonderland tale gives you more things to ponder. Personally, I never considered what Alice would be like beyond her child years. The fact that Woolverton presents our heroine as a woman preparing for her engagement surprises me. Her doing this makes the highly analytical English major in me wonder if the writer is trying to say that childhood and the imaginings that goes along with it ends when one becomes a spouse. I’m sure the people who make the claim that marriage is an adventure would have something to say about Woolverton seeming to portray it as the end of one’s freedom and a wet blanket on a fiery imagination. In general, this version like the rest reminds us that our imagination is invaluable. It also suggests that we should continue to question our definition of normalcy and try not to frown upon the different, unique or absurd. Like Depp’s Mad Hatter, we all go a little crazy when we remain too long in our heads and need a kind-hearted soul to get us to return to our senses. Like Wasikowska’s Alice, we often become overwhelmed by things beyond our grasp and hope things won’t be as they are now when we “wake up.” Without a doubt, we all have encountered an inept “ruler” like the Red Queen who terrorized all for the sake of keeping their version of order. Looked at from this perspective, Carroll’s world is more reality based than we thought before.

Having anxiously anticipated the release of Alice In Wonderland, I am disappointed by the finished product. Tim Burton is a truly gifted man who can turn the mundane into a brilliant kaleidoscope of frightful delight. Yet, his latest film fails to grab you like his past work has. Though I don’t know for sure, I’m suspect that Disney had something to do with it based on the quality of recent Disney films. However, despite my disappointment, I will not tell you to steer clear of this movie as it is worth a look. I do suggest though that you think twice before bringing a young child with you as it does have scary parts. Enjoy the movie!

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