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Movie Reviews

Film Review: “Alice in Wonderland (3-D)”

(Disney. 1 hour, 48 minutes. Rated PG. Directed by Tim Burton.) Johnny Depp (Mad Hatter), Mia Wasikowska (Alice Kingsleigh), Anne Hathaway (White Queen), Helena Bonham Carter (Red Queen), Crispin Glover (Stayne — Knave of Hearts), Matt Lucas (Tweedledee/Tweedledum), Alan Rickman (Absolem the Caterpillar), Timothy Spall (Bayard the Bloodhound), Imelda Staunton (Tall Flower Faces), Michael Sheen (White Rabbit), Stephen Fry (Cheshire Cat), Barbara Windsor (Dormouse), Christopher Lee (Jabberwocky) Michael Gough (Dodo), Paul Whitehouse (March Hare). Music by Danny Elfman.

Wrongheaded “reimagining” of Lewis Carroll’s famous stories about a 7-year-old girl and her tumble down a rabbit hole, and the Victorian-era acid trip which results. Here, Alice is 19, having weird dreams she can’t explain, and finding herself being forced into an engagement to a nitwit lord. She escapes the engagement party when she spots the White Rabbit again, follows him, and falls down the hole yet again. She doesn’t remember her previous visit, but everyone remembers her. Unfortunately, not much happens for most of the movie until a climactic battle between Alice and the dragon-like Jabberwock.

Burton (or his Disney bosses) has been influenced not only by J.K. Rowling, but also Stephanie Meyer: this is Alice for the Twilight crowd (probably why most of Carroll’s wonderful language is sadly missing). Bonham Carter, with her digitally-enlarged noggin, has some moments as the Red Queen (“Off with their heads!”). Hathaway, as her sister the White Queen, leaves no impression. Depp, supposedly “mad,” pulls a few tricks out of his hat but nothing we hadn’t seen already in his previous bizarro characterizations. If anything, he’s too low-key. The 3-D effects don’t add much to the dull proceedings. My suggestion: go old-school and read (or re-read) the books. Best is The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition, with notes by Martin Gardner and the original illustrations by John Tenniel.

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”