1. Entertainment
Send to a Friend via Email

'Alice in Wonderland' Movie Review

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating
User Rating 4 Star Rating (2 Reviews)

By

Mia Wasikowska as Alice in 'Alice in Wonderland.'

Mia Wasikowska as Alice in 'Alice in Wonderland.'

© Walt Disney Pictures
Tim Burton leads audiences on a magical, mystical, [head]trip down the rabbit hole with Alice in Wonderland, the PG rated Disney film starring his favorite collaborators, Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. Burton, Depp, and Bonham Carter are like three peas in a twisted pod. The chances they take are risky and largely worthwhile, and Alice is a risk taken that worked. It's extraordinarily beautiful, extraordinarily bizarre, and - although purists will pooh-pooh the new storyline - absolutely entertaining.

Alice in Wonderland is the most technologically complex of their adventures together, but Burton and his cast make sure the effects don't overwhelm the quirky characters or central story. Alice in Wonderland isn't just a special effects extravaganza, though the effects are absolutely stunning. ...Bravo special effects wizard, Ken Ralston... From talking roses to wild, woolly, and wacky completely CG characters, Alice in Wonderland is an absorbing 3D adventure that transports you to a new world so completely it's hard to say goodbye to it when it all wraps up. And at just one hour and 49 minutes, it wraps up all too quickly.

The Story

Based on the characters created 150 years ago by Lewis Carroll, Burton and screenwriter Linda Woolverton move the story forward to a 19 year old Alice (Mia Wasikowska) on the verge of womanhood. Her mother, who we never get to know, has arranged for her marriage to a milquetoast wimp of a man. The son of a lord who used to do business with Alice's father, this dull young man has no imagination and so when Alice begins speculating on all sorts of interesting, fanciful topics, he's not only unimpressed but also taken aback. Still, his family's determined the marriage go forward and lacking any free will - or a personality - he asks for her hand in front of a gathering of hundreds of their family members and friends.

Helena Bonham Carter as The Red Queen in 'Alice in Wonderland.'

Helena Bonham Carter as The Red Queen in 'Alice in Wonderland.'

© Walt Disney Pictures
Instead of answering, Alice spies a white rabbit (voiced by Michael Sheen) dressed rather nattily and decides to leave the spineless son of a lord behind and follow the rabbit down a hole at the base of a large tree. Once there, Alice eats cake and drinks a potion, ultimately winding up the size of the rabbit.

Alice thinks she's somehow fallen asleep and this is all a dream, and so she's willing to just abandon herself to whatever's happening. That means that when rabbits, mice and even the roses start asking her if she's 'the' Alice, she doesn't freak out that animals and plants are questioning her, but instead takes offense to the fact she's being accused of being the wrong Alice. She doesn't remember these creatures nor ever having visited Underland before, yet they seem to believe she's the Alice who's meant to save Underland and slay the Jabberwocky. But the hookah-smoking blue caterpillar tells her she's not nearly Alice and sends her off to The Mad Hatter.

Meanwhile, The Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) has made Underland a terrifying place to live. Her twice the normal size head must house a less than normal size brain, as she's a little slow on the uptake and very quick to anger. The flip side of the coin is The White Queen (Anne Hathaway), a ethereal creature who is loved by all. The White Queen floats like a butterfly, and may have the ability to sting like a bee - but it's well hidden beneath virginal attire and a Mona Lisa smile.

The Red Queen ripped the throne out from under The White Queen, and everyone in the kingdom has been waiting for Alice's return for the prophesy to be fulfilled, the Jabberwocky to be defeated, and the wonderland that is Underland to be restored to its former peaceful beauty.

The Cast

Under a layer of some of the most creepy makeup ever - makeup that makes it hard to actually focus on him for too long - Johnny Depp is enthralling as a hatter who's completely lost his mind. Depp's high energy, completely bonkers performance is worth the price of an Alice ticket. Helena Bonham Carter is all pouty and positively perfect as the big-headed petulant queen whose favorite refrain is "Off with his/her head!" As The Red Queen's right-hand man, the Knave of Hearts, Crispin Glover is peculiar and menacing at the same time. And Anne Hathaway looks angelic, but her White Queen has a dark side that's hidden barely beneath the surface. I'm not sure why she does this weird thing with her fingers every time she's on screen - it's both fascinating and distracting - but Hathaway is just right as the yin to Bonham Carter's yang.

Burton also brought together an impressive voice cast which includes Sheen as the White Rabbit, Alan Rickman as the Caterpillar, Sir Christopher Lee as the Jabberwocky, Stephen Fry as the Cheshire Cat, Timothy Spall as Bayard the bloodhound, Paul Whitehouse as the March Hare, and Barbara Windsor as the feisty Dormouse. All the voice actors do a first-rate job, in particular Fry as the scene-stealing, disappearing cat with the famous grin.

Johnny Depp as The Mad Hatter in 'Alice in Wonderland.'

Johnny Depp as The Mad Hatter in 'Alice in Wonderland.'

© Walt Disney Pictures
But the real revelation is Mia Wasikowska as Alice. Although it looks as though a strong breeze could knock her down, Wasikowska is a real powerhouse. As Alice, Wasikowska goes from a young girl unable to stand up for herself against her mother's wishes, a girl whose father told her it's important to think of six impossible things before breakfast, to an Alice totally in control. Alice in Wonderland wouldn't work if we didn't feel everything Alice is going through, and Wasikowska - with Burton's guidance - allows us to get inside Alice's skin.

The Bottom Line

As with Avatar, there's so much going on in the background of Alice, with so many little details flying by too quickly, trying to take it all in in one sitting is almost an impossible task. This is one DVD I'll be wearing out the pause button over, just to get a better look at the lustrous undergrowth of Underland.

It's not just the Red Queen's costumes and choice of decor that show off how much heart was poured into this Alice. But, this is a very different Alice than we're used to seeing portrayed on the screen, and one you're either going to absolutely loathe or fully embrace. But if you're willing to accept this new story involving old familiar characters, Alice in Wonderland will take you on a fantastic adventure down the rabbit hole and into a spectacular, mind-blowing new world.

GRADE: B+

Disclosure: This review is based on a screening provided by the studio. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
User Reviews

Reviews for this section have been closed.

 4 out of 5
Alice in Wonderland, Member willyt2

Forget about Walt Disney's cartoon Alice character with the innocent personality, bright yellow hair, and baby blue colored dress. This is a dark, wild adaption of Lewis Carroll's classic but Tim Burton sat in the director's chair for this one so that's to be expected. This production is filled with imagination from start to finish. Not only visually but also in the story. Burton made a smart move by not giving us the same plot as we've already seen. Here, Alice is older and is about to get married. Also, she ends up in Wonderland for the second time or in this case, ""Underland."" The script is a little fresher than other remakes. Visually, the movie is amazing. The land's environment looks like something straight out of Candyland and the film's setting is glamorized in Hollywood special-effects having 90% of it be in green screen. Surprisingly, all of the main performances are top notch including the lead actress as the title role and Helena Bonham Carter as The Red Queen. But Johnny Depp really steals every scene he's in as The Mad Hatter. He was perfectly cast because of his ability to take his characters way past the oddly intriguing line and make them unforgettable. One thing that weighs down on the film though is its subplot in the middle. The movie starts to drag quite a bit and takes too much advantage and too much time with the effects it has. That said, I recommend seeing this one in the theatre. Definitely try to see it in 3-D, itís very cool!

4 out of 4 people found this helpful.

See all 2 reviews

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.