ALICE IN WONDERLAND Review

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ALICE IN WONDERLAND Review
[Our thanks to Mike Sizemore for the following review.]

Sky 3D were kind enough to invite me along to last night's Royal premier of Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland in London so I got to briefly tread the same red green carpet as Johnny Depp (although I was asked to sign less autographs) and don my shades in the presence of Prince Charles and Avril Lavigne. So the evening was a surreal experience even before the rabbit hole tumble.

The movie features a British who's who of voice talent and the majority of them braved the rain to watch their mostly CGI rendered performances for the first time.  Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Michael Sheen, Christopher Lee and the indomitable Barbara Windsor were in fine form with fans and press alike. Depp especially seemed determined to ignore the weather and stay outside with the fans as long as possible signing countless autographs and speaking to soaked souls who had been waiting for hours, many in full fancy dress.

It turns out that waiting for the Royals to do their thing is as tedious as any anti piracy ad and just as unskippable, but once the fanfare was out of the way and the cast had appeared briefly on stage to thunderous applause we were more than ready to meet the new Alice.

Burton has taken the tricky route of attempting a sequel of sorts to the overly familiar Alice story and I'm happy to say he pulls it off rather well. Alice is now 19 and plagued by bad dreams, an increasingly stifling extended family and the social etiquette of the day. Holding on to her childhood as she does means being easily distracted so one white rabbit chase later and she's suddenly back in a Wonderland that she doesn't quite remember or believe in anymore.

This provides Burton the framework to revisit the set pieces you expect (such as the tea party) while putting a little fresh twist on proceedings. Linda Woolverton's script ties everything up nicely and even though some of the plotting seems a little slap-dash in places it all move along at a brisk, enjoyable pace and the children around me seemed to be having a great time.

Adults and long time fans may be disappointed that this isn't a darker Burton movie, but by keeping things light this Alice effortlessly surpasses other fantasy films that fell so horribly short of their potential. The weightless appearances (and disappearances) of Stephen Fry's Cheshire Cat alone has more charm than the recent Narnia movies and Golden Compass combined.

Depp makes an excellent Hatter. Traumatised and suffering from split personalities it's a nice touch that in his few coherent moments he seems aware that he's gone insane allowing Depp to briefly add a little humanity to the character. Everyone else seems to revel in the process, Helena Bonham Carter probably having the most fun as the large headed Red Queen. Stealing every scene is Matt Lucas as both Tweedledee and Tweedledum, but special attention should be given to the central performance.

Mia Wasikowska should already be familiar to ScreenAnarchy readers from Spencer Susser's quite remarkable zombie short, I Love Sarah Jane. As Alice, Wasikowska not only manages to hold her own against a cast of acting heavyweights she's also one of the very few fully human performances - shrinking and growing moments aside - and she positively shines in every scene. As very difficult it is to step into the shoes of such a well loved character, Wasikowska does so with relish and makes Alice her own.

The 3D process although added quite late in the day manages not to feel like an afterthought. Wonderland is certainly not the rich and immersive world that James Cameron created in Avatar, but it rather gives the movie a hyper-real, almost pop-up book feel that suits the story well. Especially in the climatic battle scene between Alice and the Christopher Lee voiced Jabberwocky.

And as with Avatar I'm again left a little jealous of the youngsters that will get to experience this particular cinema outing. It's also refreshing to see a female lead have so much fun in an adventure while reminding Alice's target audience that doing six impossible things before breakfast is something to be held onto no matter how old you are.

Review by Mike Sizemore

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More about Alice In Wonderland

Kurt HalfyardFebruary 26, 2010 12:51 PM

I will be happy to see this in 2D, although the 'pop-up book' thinks seems sort of interesting and quaint at the same time.

AlyssMarch 1, 2010 2:57 PM

This is the first positive review that I've seen and it surprises me! I have to respect the writers opinion, however I must say that the only remake of Alice in Wonderland I would like to see is "The Looking Glass Wars" by Frank Beddor, which reveals the true story of what happened in Wonderland.

BrandonMarch 2, 2010 6:40 PM

I haven't yet seen the movie (counting down to it with relish...in 3D, of course ;-) but I did discover a gem in the barrage of Alice related items on the market — 'Alice in Verse: The Lost Rhymes of Wonderland', which contains 19 never-before-seen rhyming poems, some that recap familiar territory, others (the greater half of them) that offer deeper insight on the worlds of both Wonderland and Looking-Glass, including the complete trail of the Knave of Hearts and a surprising (or perhaps not so surprising) answer to the question of who really stole the Queen's tarts. The magnum opus of The Lost Rhymes is without question the sequel to 'The Walrus & the Carpenter', appropriately entitled 'The Walrus & the Carpenter Head Back' — absolutely astounding. Bar none, 'Alice in Verse: The Lost Rhymes of Wonderland' is the best (and most relevant) Alice book since the originals. Google the title and you'll easily find links for it—the illustrations are exceptional.

Kurt HalfyardMarch 4, 2010 9:41 AM

Always preferred this 'alternate-version' of Lewis Caroll's story above all the others - http://www.amazon.com/Alice-Quantumland-Allegory-Quantum-Physics/dp/0387914951

Michael GuillenMarch 5, 2010 7:54 PM

Mike, I find your review fair. Not only in its enjoyment of a spectacular event (which often lends credence to a viewing) but in your basic willingness to go with the project. We might end up being alone in this in Twitchland.

LochivanApril 12, 2010 11:37 PM

Well people need to lower their expectations if you don't like the movie don't blame the movie or the director blame the writers or just don't comment. It was a great movie though.