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Alice in Wonderland (9/10)

by Tony Medley

Run Time 107 minutes.

OK for children.

This might be called “Alice in Wonderland,” but it is not Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland,” which was published in 1865. The most enjoyable thing for me in reading Carroll’s “Alice,” is that it is full of philosophy and truisms, simply and plainly put. Here are a few examples:

"Tut, tut, child! Everything's got a moral, if only you can find it."

“Take care of the sense, and the sounds will take care of themselves.”

“Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop.” (my favorite)

“Well! I've often seen a cat without a grin; but a grin without a cat! It's the most curious thing I ever saw in my life!”

"There's a large mustard-mine near here. And the moral of that is -- The more there is of mine, the less there is of yours."

None of these profundities found their way into Tim Burton’s latest iteration of Carroll’s story. Well, sad to say it’s Carroll’s characters and setting, but certainly not one of his stories, and more’s the pity because there are some magical performances here, especially by Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter and Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen (who was a character in “Through the Looking Glass,” published in 1871 as the sequel to “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”).

Although it is presented in 3D, it was filmed in 2D with the third dimension added in post-production, and it shows. Burton’s Wonderland is disappointing because he has washed much of the color out of it. I would have enjoyed it so much more had it been a lush, green Wonderland, but it’s not.

The 19-year-old Alice is played by Mia Wasikowska, who is basically the glue that holds all of Carroll’s magical characters together. In addition to the Red Queen and the Mad Hatter, Burton and screenwriter Linda Woolverton reunite Alice with the White Rabbit (Michael Sheen), Tweedledee and Tweedledum (Matt Lucas), the Dormouse (Barbara Windsor), the Caterpillar (Alan Rickman), and the Cheshire Cat (brilliantly voiced by Stephen Fry).

Unfortunately, they also add things not present in Carroll’s tales, like war and physical violence. Instead of shaking the Red Queen until she morphs into Alice’s cat, ending her dream in “Through the Looking Glass”, Burton and Woolverton concoct a massive battle between the forces of the Red Queen and her evil cohort, Stayne - Knave of Hearts (Crispin Glover) and those of the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) to bring the story to its climax.

While I would have rather seen a film faithful to Carroll’s vision, this is still enormously entertaining, highlighted by the Oscar®-quality performances of Depp and Carter. Depp gives a performance that must be seen to be appreciated. He shows here that he is something special.