Tim Burton's Wild Imagination Put to Good Use in Alice in Wonderland
- Friday, March 05, 2010
DVD Release Date: June 1, 2010
Theatrical Release Date: March 5, 2010
Rating: PG (for fantasy action/violence involving scary images and situations, and for a smoking caterpillar)
Run Time: 108 min.
Director: Tim Burton
Actors: Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover, Matt Lucas, Stephen Fry, Michael Sheen, Alan Rickman, Leo Bill
In the first few minutes of Alice in Wonderland we learn the best people in the world are apparently "bonkers," perhaps, a fitting nod to the man behind the lens himself, Tim Burton.
Given that Burton has been the guy responsible for everything from the bizarrely lovable Edward Scissorhands to the truly demented update of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (remember Johnny Depp's blindingly white buck teeth and anything but kid-friendly demeanor?) to the grisliest of all Broadway musicals, Sweeney Todd, where men are offed during their regular haircuts and promptly used as filling for London's famed meat pies, it's not surprising that Lewis Carroll's Alice, no matter how many times it's already been adapted, would be a perfect vehicle for Burton's unconventional filmmaking.
And trust me, a little oddity in the right hands can be a good, good thing on the big screen—especially in 3D. But we'll get back to those eye-popping visuals in a moment…
First, let's focus on the story, shall we? For those hoping for (or anticipating) a more straightforward approach, Alice won't likely please the purists because it's really more a "re-imagining" of the classic tale than anything. Sure, it features many of the same characters and zig-zagging motifs, but in the same way that Hook wasn't a page-by-page reenactment of Peter Pan, Alice's journey down the rabbit hole isn't strictly by the book.
Instead of showing us Alice's first journey to Wonderland, it's now several years later, and Alice doesn't even remember visiting before (although in later scenes, we'll see that she has). While everyone tries their best to remind Alice of her legendary "muchness" upon her arrival, she's all but convinced she's simply having another one of her crazy dreams.
Before following the mysterious while rabbit with the ticking timepiece at his side into the forest, Alice, now 19 years old, is at the proverbial crossroads in her life. Rebelling against the conventional Victorian ideals of her peers about who she should marry (especially in light of a recent proposal from the drippy suitor at her impromptu engagement bash) or what a woman's expected role is in society, Alice believes that nobody should tell her what she can—or can't—dream, even if it involves drinking a mysterious shrinking potion or enjoying the company of a wacky Mad Hatter (Depp in fine comedic form), a disappearing Cheshire cat and a blue furry caterpillar with a bad smoking habit.
Of course, Alice gets far more than she bargained for when entering the place formerly known as Wonderland. Not only is she avoiding capture from an array of scary predators, but she's tasked with fighting a frightening Jabberwocky to overthrow the reign of the conniving Red Queen (a delightfully menacing Helena Bonham Carter), something she's positive she can't do even if her life depended on it (and it does).
Basically if growing up seemed hard to do before, well, she's in for quite a surprise.
In the meantime, the audience is taken on the sort of fanciful, bourgeois journey that only someone like Burton could've dreamed up. With enough eye candy, humor and intrigue to keep anything resembling boredom at bay, there's plenty to love about Alice's latest chapter.
However, be forewarned: Just because Disney is involved doesn't necessarily make it family-friendly. There's enough disturbing content (see Cautions below) to give your little ones nightmares for weeks (think Coraline or the recent version of A Christmas Carol with Jim Carrey). But for anyone who enjoys a delightfully eccentric afternoon at the movies and isn't easily scared, well, there's still plenty of magic left in Alice, thanks to Burton teaming up with his motley crew of choice: his always-engaging wife (Bonham Carter), Depp, the master chameleon and a wacky but lovable supporting cast of people probably regarded as slightly "bonkers."
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