PG for fantasy action/violence involving scary images and situations, and for a smoking caterpillar.
Science Fiction/Fantasy and Adaptation
March 5, 2010
Helena Bonham Carter, Mia Wasikowska, Matt Lucas, Johnny Depp, Stephen Fry
Walt Disney Pictures
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Alice in Wonderland
By Andrea Hedlund
- Director Tim Burton’s spin on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland involves an older, more socially defiant Alice who enters Wonderland with a destiny: to defeat the villainous Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter).
Six-year-old Alice Kingsley wakes from a nightmare in the first scene to be reassured that she hasn’t gone “mad” - a fear she faces throughout the movie. Flash-forward to a 19-year-old Alice (Mia Wasikowska) who is on her way to a party which should seal her societal destiny. Alice, completely oblivious, is fixated on a recurring dream that frequently troubles her.
Alice’s friends spill the beans about the goofy Lord Ascot’s (Tim Piggot-Smith) planned proposal minutes before it happens. A pre-arranged marriage doesn’t really suit Alice, an independent and visionary spirit.
Several minutes later, Ascot and Alice are center stage before a large crowd and the Lord asks for her hand in marriage. When a blue caterpillar lands on his shoulder, Alice plucks it off without hesitation and continues to verbalize her options.
Meanwhile, she spots a little white rabbit nearby wearing a waist jacket and carrying a wristwatch. She is the only one who notices him. Alice heads to the garden to gather her thoughts and sees the White Rabbit again. She follows him.
Alice finds a tree with a large hole. She bends down to take a peek and plunges to the bottom, where she must figure out how to fit through a miniature door - her only means of escape. After drinking and eating the treats which tell her to do so, she can fit through the door and uses the provided key to open it.
Although she doesn’t remember, Alice has apparently been to Wonderland before. Several talking animals immediately question whether she is the “real” Alice. To which she replies, “How can I be the wrong Alice if this is my own dream?”
The animals, such as Dormouse and the White Rabbit, inform Alice of her purpose. She isn’t entirely convinced that she is the one to save Wonderland, but realizes the vibrant, yet desolate land needs rescuing.
Although she questions whether she will be able to slay the Jabberwocky, she pushes forward in her journey with the help of new friends the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat, and the March Hare.
Johnny Depp is convincing as the Mad Hatter. He often steals the show (not surprisingly). His use of riddles and puns rescues a dragging story line and offers sprinkles of comic relief. Alice says the best people are all a little “mad,” and that’s okay. As the plot progresses, viewers will find themselves strangely drawn to Depp’s character.
Two positive themes here are the idea that one’s life has a specific purpose and good will ultimately triumph over evil. Burton examines the idea of accepting predestination versus fulfilling a purposeful destiny.
When Alice questions her ability to slay the Jabberwocky, the Mad Hatter encourages her to believe the impossible, which gives her the courage to fight. The Red Queen, who follows the philosophy “it is better to be feared than loved,” is devastated when she is ultimately banished by the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) to a far away place with no friends.
This full-feature 3-D experience places a greater emphasis on style and visual aesthetics over substance. Without these elements, it would fall flat. Even so, the movie is a bit dull and lasts longer than it should.
Rated PG for violence, Burton’s interpretation of the childhood classic is not suitable for small children. Parents beware: eyeballs plucked out by needles, beheadings, and Alice walking across stone-colored heads in a moat are a few of the questionable images.
Some viewers may be offended by a hookah-smoking blue caterpillar. His behavior is not condoned, but it is worth mentioning nonetheless.
Diehard Burton and Depp fans will most appreciate this film, especially with the added bonus of a 3-D experience. Everyone else will be less than impressed by a film that strays too far from a classic tale. Personally, it’s not my “cup of tea.”
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