In Theaters: Alice in Wonderland

Movieline Score: 6

Two children's classics whose hallucinatory mixture of exhilaration and dread has perhaps been most compellingly evinced by a Jefferson Airplane song and a Tom Petty video, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass are tricky cinematic source material. The 1951 Disney animated feature never quite reached the canonical status of a Cinderella or Snow White; Lewis Carroll's iconoclastic heroine seemed to resist the plangent, embalming tones of such fare, despite having her own coterie of talking animals and fatalistic queens. What she didn't have was a prince, which curiously enough is the first thing Tim Burton, in his hybridic update, gives her. It's a conventional tweak that doesn't bode well for an adaptation of a tale as idiosyncratic as Alice, which requires descendants to inhabit its spirit of invention in an organic and yet equally singular way.

In fact, Alice's prince is no prince at all but a Lord, and one of distinctly unprincely countenance. Having vexed her mother with her lack of either stockings or a corset and sporting the prettiest of frowns, Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is unconstrained and distinctly out of place at the garden gala they attend. Burton gives the gathering and its powdered guests an almost blown out, blindingly white quality that will contrast with the rich gloom of the underworld to come. When she realizes the party is an engagement ambush -- a nostrilly prig named Hamish (Leo Bill) has deigned to ask for her hand -- Alice, distracted throughout by visions of a white bunny cavorting through the grounds, leaves her suitor hanging and heads straight for the rabbit hole.

Alice's chatty observances have marked her in polite society as impertinent, and at 19 (combining elements of both Carroll stories, Burton has aged the heroine up) she is painfully in-between on a number of levels. It's a predicament highlighted in her first trial in Underland, where she trustingly drinks a potion that makes her 10 feet tall, then nibbles a cake that shrinks her down to a quill. Bodily fluctuations, personal sovereignty, and questions of identity figure prominently in what becomes a painfully explicit adventure in self-actualization. Screenwriter Linda Woolverton's (Beauty and the Beast) insistent narrative overlay organizes Carroll's unruly interplay of themes, symbols, semiotics, and subversive fiddle-faddle to the point of defeat. Every bit of havoc and nonesuch is put in service of the story of Alice's feminist awakening, and it's about as exciting as it sounds.

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  • Aerialgrrrl says:

    No no no, the mark has been missed her. Genius. and what about that final scene SPOILER ALERT, that our favourite fairy tale girl may become in time the best heroin(e) of the lot! Gotta give Burton props for that...or maybe I heard it wrong.

  • jensen says:

    Don't care what anyone says, ALICE was just great. I went to the movies to be entertained and I left JOYOUS! filled with happy energy and after I thought about it I realized how absolutely wonderful it is to go to a movie and leave with a dance in my heart!!!! comparatively, and I loved Avatar,it was flat next to ALICE... ALICE just pranced off the screen, it was alive and vibrant and if you are looking at it cerebrally you miss the entire point...I give it a 10..even with minor flaws, it is HEAD Shoulders and HOOKAH above the rest...I hope it gets nominated for Oscar next year!!!
    One more thought....James Cameron has been touted as having created an extraordinary world and how difficult it was to bring into realization and it took years...and until I saw ALICE, I bought it...but then seeing ALICE, the world of Pandora paled in comparison and if it was so very difficult, how come the world of ALICE was not only realized, but actually much better? Oh yes, and ALICE beat Avatar for opening weekend by a great big bunch...and that's no puff of smoke.

  • Seen this in 3D at the cinema and was surprisingly disappointed... Other than the cat there was rarely any "depth" in evidence. As for the film, it's ok but not on a level with what we've come to expect from Burton/Depp.

  • Virtually all I can think about is smoking cigarettes. I don't need to take a drag and if perhaps someone offered a smoke right this minute, I will totally refuse. I feel I'm in a fairly terrible mental condition and have been having trouble getting a good nights sleep but yet I know I need to be tough. The e-cig may make it easier in the end.

  • Kendall says:

    Some films try to create consciousness in regards to the socioeconomic and political state of affairs of nations.