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ALICE IN WONDERLAND (director: Tim Burton; screenwriters: Linda Woolverton/based on “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking-Glass” by Lewis Carroll; cinematographer: Dariusz Wolski; editor: Chris Lebenzon; music: Danny Elfman; cast: Johnny Depp (Mad Hatter), Mia Wasikowska (Alice Kingsleigh), Anne Hathaway (White Queen), Helena Bonham Carter (Red Queen), Crispin Glover (Stayne-Knave of Hearts), Matt Lucas (Tweedledee and Tweedledum), Alan Rickman (Absolem the Caterpillar), Timothy Spall (Bayard the Bloodhound), Imelda Staunton (Tall Flower Faces), Tim Pigott-Smith(Lord Astor), Geraldine James(Lady Astor), Leo Bill (Hamish), Marton Csokas (CharlesKingsleigh), Jemma Powell(Margaret Kingsleigh), Lindasy Duncan (HelenKingsleigh); WITH THE VOICES OF: Michael Sheen (White Rabbit), Stephen Fry (Cheshire Cat), Barbara Windsor (Dormouse), Christopher Lee (Jabberwocky), Michael Gough (Dodo), Paul Whitehouse (March Hare); Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Richard D. Zanuck/Joe Roth/Suzanne Todd/Jennifer Todd; Walt Disney Pictures; 2010)

“Wobbles along as average entertainment garnered from a great book.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Flamboyant film-maker Tim Burton (“Sweeney Todd”/”Ed Wood”/”Sleepy Hollow”)directs another of many versions of Lewis Carrol’s fantasy based on his two books “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking-Glass,” and makes it into a magical visual pic that combines both his and Carrol’s visions and nonsensical storytelling. Unfortunately Burton never gets the spirit of Carroll’s hallucinatory tale as much as he does the characterizations and moral tone. It’s part-live action and part-animated. For theater release it used the 3D format. The film was shot in 2-D and converted to 3-D, therefore the 3D was not as brilliantly done as in recent films such as Avatar .

The nineteenth-century Carroll story is about a 7-year-old girl named Alice who falls into an imaginary rabbit hole and calls the place Wonderland, where she’s greeted by many strangely memorable animals. Regular Burton writer Linda Woolverton (“The Lion Kings”) changes things by having a much older Alice, age 19, fall down the hole and in order to escape this Wonderland, called Underland, must slay the Jabberwocky (voiced by Christopher Lee) in a place ruled by the diabolical, bulbous-headed Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter, the director’s wife). This visually inventive but loose version will probably not please most purists, though it makes for an enjoyable watch that wobbles along as average entertainment garnered from a great book. It tacks on a 21st century allegorical feminine message about women escaping their fate of having to marry without love in order to be kept in material comfort and to please others who want them to conform to society expectations.

At the lush estate of Lord and Lady Ascot (Tim Pigott-Smith and Geraldine James), their dull son Hamish (Leo Bill) proposes marriage to the bright Alice Kingsleigh (Mia Wasikowska, Australian actress) in the garden, in front of all the guests, and the dreamer and rebellious Alice, not wanting to marry him, runs off and falls down a rabbit hole while chasing after a white rabbit (voiced by Michael Sheen)dressed in a waistcoat. In the hole Alice drinks from a bottle labelled “Drink Me”, whose contents shrink her, and eats from a cake with the iced words on top spelling out “Eat Me,” which makes her grow. Alice now finds herself in the fantasy world of Underland, which are like her many haunting dreams. There she meets the likes of a dashing Dormouse (Barbara Windsor), the zany Scottish eccentric named the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), an ever-grinning Cheshire Cat (voiced by Stephen Fry), the hookah-smoking caterpillar, Absalom (voiced by Alan Rickman), the creepy Knave of Hearts (Crispin Glover), the good but languid and narcissistic death-like white-faced White Queen (Anne Hathaway) and her ruthless older sister, the Red Queen, the petulant ruler of Underland who surrounds herself with lackeys to do her bidding. Alice’s mission is to end the reign of terror by making the passive White Queen as ruler.

Instead of being a fantastic head trip movie, with the director’s personal stamp, it turns into an ordinary quest film about destiny, a chosen one and good vs. evil. Burton offers no personal view on Carroll’s fantasy, so what we get are all of Carroll’s colorful silly characters but without the film matching the author’s refreshing dreamy playfulness in telling the story.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”