Review: Alice in Wonderland

As with a good portion of the movies I see in the theatre, I saw the one in which this review concerns with the younger of my two sisters. It’s just our brother-sister bonding time. I’m nearly ten years older than her and I did my share of raising her (poor kid). I was the one that picked her up from school, made her a snack/took her to get something to eat on Fridays, made sure she did her homework, and so on. We’ve always been close. Unfortunately now that we’re older, we don’t have the chance to really just hang out anymore. We do, however, make time for the movies.

Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, and Helena Bonham Carter

Directed By: Tim Burton

I will have to admit that my only experience with Wonderland is through the animated movie by Disney. I have not read any of the books nor have I seen any of the other movies. In my mind this movie is a sequel to the animated movie. Maybe that’s the idea, I wouldn’t really know. The movie follows an older Alice (Mia Wasikowska), uncertain about her future. She is to be engaged to her deceased father partner’s son. Naturally, the son is a complete tool and his mother a complete horror. Suddenly, there’s the White Rabbit (voiced by Michael Sheen) to save the day. Alice follows the the White Rabbit and promptly falls down the rabbit hole back into Wonderland.

There we meet all the fantastic characters we all know and love. We find out that since Alice’s last foray into Underland (what the place is actually called), the Red Queen (the scene stealing Helena Bonham Carter) has been ruled with an iron fist with her right hand man the Knave of Hearts (the always great Crispin Glover). This is a change from the Underland we know. Certainly it was always a place where it felt like it was a constant acid trip, but now it’s a bleak world, wilting away under the Red Queen’s regime.

We learn that most of the characters we know, most notably the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), are secretly/not-so-secretly working for the Red Queen’s younger sister, the White Queen (Anne Hathaway). All they need is for Alice to return as prophesied, become their champion, destroy the jabberwocky (a cameo voice over by Christopher Lee) and return the White Queen to her rightful place as ruler of Underland. It’s quite a task for young Alice to wrap her head around, to say the least.

This is a coming of age movie, which is something that surprised me. This is all about Alice growing up, taking charge of her life, not being afraid of what the future holds provided its the future she herself creates. By the end of the movie, Alice goes from a confused, young lady to a strong, confident woman. It’s quite a transformation. Predictable, yes, but there’s nothing wrong with that at all.

When I first heard Tim Burton would be directing a version of Alice in Wonderland, I must admit I had mixed feelings. Burton, for me, can be quite hit and miss at this stage of his career (after starting off so strongly). For example, he directed the terrible Planet of the Apes movie followed by the absolutely brilliant Big Fish which he follows up with the decent but disappointing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. His last live action film was Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street a musical which I actually really enjoyed. I guess you can say I thought he was due for another stinker. I was wrong. I can’t think of another director that I would feel safer to tell the story of Underland. Burton was tailored made for it.

The cast is absolutely superb. Burton mainstays Depp and Bonham are excellent, especially Bomham who just chews up every moment she’s on screen. Glover is great fun, it’s a shame his behavior doesn’t allow him to be in more high profile movies. The voice casting is absolutely perfect. From Sheen’s White Rabbit to Stephen Fry as the Cheshire Cat to Alan Rickman as Absalom the wise caterpillar all were great.

However, the movie doesn’t work if Mia Wasikowska fails as Alice. She is the glue that keeps the movie going and the ground for the audience as we watch these these outlandish and over-the-top characters. If Alice doesn’t work, the movie falls completely flat. As a relative unknown (I had only seen her in the underrated Defiance with Daniel Craig), she does an outstanding job. I would assume only big things are in store for the 20 year old in the future.

Lastly, there’s the 3D to discuss. I know a lot of people really dislike it for various reasons. I saw Alice in Wonderland Real D 3D. I was expecting a bunch of cheesy situations: like the Mad Hatter throwing the hat at the audience every few minutes or the jabberwocky chomping right down at us. Instead, it added a layer to the movie. In the engagement party sequence, there is depth to the crowd of people. Some of them actually appeared closer to me. It was very interesting and I didn’t mind it at all. I’m also happy to report that these glasses are big enough to accommodate those of us who are blind that need glasses. I very comfortably slipped the 3D glasses over my normal glasses and it didn’t effect how I viewed the movie at all.

Bottom Line: I had a great time watching this film. It isn’t quite what I expected, but I mean that in a good way. Burton has another strong film under his belt. The performances are all great, especially Helena Bonham Carter and Mia Wasikowska. It’s a trip you will not regret. And yes, I was completely sober while watching the movie. Honest.

8/10 (Recommended).

Will be back again on Friday with something else. Possibly a top ten list of some sort. I also have some movies coming in from Netflix that I’ll be watching as well.

Until then…

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