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Alice in Wonderland
Click for full sized poster

Alice in Wonderland

Starring Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Crispin Glover, Matt Lucas, Mia Wasikowska, Alan Rickman, Stephen Fry, Michael Sheen, Timothy Spall, Christopher Lee, Paul Whitehouse, Barbara Windsor
Screenplay by Linda Woolverton
Based on stories by the Rev. Charles Dodgson as Lewis Carroll
Directed by Tim Burton

IN SHORT: Pretty pictures but woefuly lacking in Wonder. [Rated PG. 109 minutes]

Viewed in 3D though there is a 2D version in theaters as well. Cranky had no problems, headache or otherwise, wearing two pair of glasses for the run of the film.

When she was a girl of six, young Alice Kingsleigh (Mairi Ella Challen) told  her father of  a strange dream she had. She wondered if indicated that, perhaps, she was going crazy. "Of course you are," said her loving dad. "All the most interesting people are!" Or something like that. Dad departs the scene as quickly as a film editor can make thirteen years disappear and the now almost twenty Alice (Mia Wasikowska) -- who has had that same dream night after night ever since -- finds herself dragged by her mother (Lindsay Duncan) to some lavish garden party. Alice was told that the day was to be an extraordinary day, but she had no idea that said day was not your average Saturday. or Sunday. No . . . 'twas Brillig! and on that day in that place, known to all but her, an engagement is to be offered by the milksop Lord Sensitive Stomach, aka Hamish (Leo Bill). Before said engagement day ends, though it would seem more like a week, fair Alice will see a well dressed White Rabbit (voiced by Michael Sheen) with a pocketwatch; Will panic at the thought of becoming The Lady Sensitive Somach; Will flee and stumble and fall down a whopper of a rabbit hole and hit her head and, well, you know:  A tiny door. A tinier key. Eat Me. Drink Me. Major shrinkage. Wonderland.

Beware all ye who enter for Tim Burton and crew are about to mangle Wonderland beyond recognition. Burton's Alice in Wonderland owes as much to Lewis Carroll's poem Jabberwocky, found within "Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There" as it does from anything in the rest of the Alice canon. For most folk, we'd hypothesize, the only "real" version of Alice that counts is the earlier Disney animation, made in 1951. For any parental unit who has already exposed the kidlets to said animation, the move to 3D may be a bit of a novelty. That's about it though. This Alice has very little else to put a capital letter on "wonder."

That is because, as she makes her way back through her dream world Alice makes two important discoveries. First, "Wonderland" is actually called "Underland" and, second, t'ain't a dream at all -- as the swiping claws of the frumious Bandersnatch leave deep cuts in Alice's arms as a kind of welcoming present. Seriously. Underland is a place that, thirteen years into the reign of Iracebeth, the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), is in pretty sorry shape. It's a place that awaits the coming of "The" Alice -- the real Alice -- who, according to a historical Compendium of the Underland, will wield the Vorpal sword in defense of Iracebeth's sister Mirana, aka the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), and battle the Jabberwock (Christopher Lee), a dragon like  monster who is the Red Queen's ultimate enforcer. Yeah, that's a mouthful.

Before you get there, there are many many characters who need to pop in and say hi, whether they're needed or not: Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee (both by a heavily CG'd Matt Lucas who credits Ethan Cohn with a little help), Absolem the Caterpillar (Alan Rickman), and Chessur, a Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry). The most important of them all, of course, is the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp)  who will give Alice's character the proper motivation to get through her new "dream" and discover what is "Real". Of course, the Hatter's teaparty chums the March Hare (Paul Whitehouse) and Mallymkun, the Dormouse (Barbara Windsor) are present. Be warned though, Depp's accent flies all over the map depending upon how agitated his character is. It can be down right impossible to understand at times. Luckily there are Tim Burton's characteristic lovely pictures to keep  you happy while the story plods on.

It plods because the CG, in addition to generating scenery and effects, is used to manipulate the appearance of the characters as well. Once technical requirements like that get in the way of  allowing a performer free reign, the performance is basically caged. Depp is most affected by the restraints. His character bounces around like a dog in a cage.

For comic relief there is Bayard the Bloodhound (Timothy Spall), a dim bulb of a dog, who just wants to go home to his wife and pups.The Hatter also does a jig called the Futterwacken. And there's a bit of subplot involving the Red Queen's love interest -- Ilosovic Stayne, the Knave of  Hearts (Crispin Glover) enforcer for the Red Queen. Too much. Too restricted by the tech and way overthought.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Alice in Wonderland, he would have paid . . .


The need on the part of the creators to get literally every character famous from the original stories on to the screen, coupled with the technical demands of the effects on the actors dull the impact of the story. We didn't fidget but we were close. To call Alice in Wonderland a major disappointment would be far too kind.

amazon com link Click to buy films by Tim Burton
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Click to buy films starring Johnny Depp
Click to buy books by Lewis Carroll

The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.