Alice as a child is troubled by dreams involving rabbits in waist coats, blue caterpillars, and feelings of falling. Even 13 years later, she occasionally is still troubled but no longer has her beloved father to ease her fear of being bonkers.
Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is now a young woman of 19. Her mother is late taking her to this party at a royal estate where everyone is watching and waiting for the Lord’s less than princely twit of a son to propose to Alice. Instead of answering right away, she tells him she must think about it for a moment. Soon, she is running after a little rabbit in a waist coat and following him into a hole under a tree.
After the tumble into the hole, Alice is back doing the whole one pill makes you smaller routine to fit into the little door to Wonderland. She encounters Tweedledee and Tweedledum (Matt Lucas), the Dormouse (Barbara Windsor), the Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry), and the White Rabbit (Michael Sheen) who are awaiting to see if she is their Alice. Unfortunately, Alice does not recall her childhood adventures in Wonderland. She thinks that she is dreaming. They take her to the Blue Caterpillar, Absolem (the melodious Alan Rickman), who explains that according to their Oraculum it foretells that Alice will save the Underland by becoming the champion for the White Queen (Anne Hathaway). Alice refuses to destroy anything and Absolem declares she is a fake. They are soon attacked by the Red Queen’s soldiers that look like red flat lobsters. All her new friends are captured, but Alice manages to get away. She next encounters the Matt Hatter (Johnny Depp) and the March Hare’s endless tea party table. The Mad Hatter, in his brief moments of lucidity, knows this is the true Alice. With the aid of the dog Bayard (Timothy Spall), the Hatter helps her escape when Stayne - the Knave of Hearts (Crispin Glover) - comes seeking her. He takes the Hatter back to the Red Queen (played deliciously by Helen Bonham Carter). Alice must now save the Hatter from losing his head and find the sword to slay the Jabberwocky (Christopher Lee) so the White Queen can rule the Underland.
In the first really huge movie of the blockbuster season, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland is bound to top the rating charts this opening weekend. It should have been named the NEW Adventures of Alice in case someone is expecting the much loved original story. If you are expecting the usual Burton edge and dark humor, then what you will find here is Tim Burton “lite”. The screenplay by Linda Woolverton (The Lion King) incorporates a Jane Eyre-type of heroine, battling against society’s expectations in the fanciful world of Lewis Carroll. Mia Wasikowska is quite lovely as the grown-up Alice. But as one of the characters says, she lacks the “muchness” of the child Alice. Johnny Depp in the Hatter make-up and costume is truly a work of art. The wackiness that defines the Mad Hatter is tempered by his sorrowful back story of why he’s so bonkers. Trying to understand Depp’s mutterings was difficult at times and there were moments when he was channeling Captain Sparrow.
There’s a little bit of The Wizard of Oz, with Alice realizing the characters in Underland are similar to the people in her real world. There’s also a touch of Lord of the Rings in the epic battle of red lobsters and white chessmen with Joan of Arc Alice in shiny armor. The movie is definitely eye candy and all beautifully rendered. In 3D on an Imax screen it should have been outstanding, but outside of the monstrous screen and Disney titles, the visuals were fairly flat. But since we’ve been to Pandora, it’s hard to accept any thing less in Wonderland. (Review by Reesa Cruz Hawkins of Dallas Movie Screenings)