I have to admit something that’s downright unheard of by now, but I’m not the biggest fan of Tim Burton. Yes, even when he’s gone and put Johnny Depp in almost all of his movies for quite some time now. I don’t know what it is about his particular brand of Weird, but it’s just not really my thing.
I also have to admit that I can be fairly trepidatious about retold classics. Especially if they’re classics I was particularly partial to as a kid, which is true about Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. If you remember, I had this same trepidation about Frank Beddor’s The Looking Glass Wars. I was also starting to think that between Beddor’s work, Syfy’s Alice, and the Burton version coming out, maybe that was just a bit too much Wonderland re-working going on at the same time for all of them to be fantastic in separate ways.
Despite all of these doubts, though, I went and saw Disney’s Alice in Wonderland in theaters and was really surprised at how much I liked the film. Forget liked, I thought it was pretty brilliantly done. I very much enjoyed that this was an older Alice, who wasn’t really sure if she believed she’d been there before or not, and was trying to wake herself up all throughout the film until she decided—as some of us do in dreams—that she can take control of her own fate, rather than letting it take control of her. It was a lot of fun to see the exchanges we know and expected from the original story—Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, the Jabberwocky, the Red and White Queen—and see them redone in a fresh and honestly fun way.
Maybe that’s the thing I enjoyed most about the film—that it was so fun. I had the feeling that most of the actors involved—especially Alan Rickman as the Caterpillar and Anne Hathaway as the White Queen—were just having a ball with their quirky and odd characters. It was also nice to have a relative unknown in Alice, as she was the one character who the audience really had to feel a tie to, and for me, at least, Burton’s regular acting troupe can be a bit distracting showing up in so many of his films. Mia Wasikowska was refreshing and relateable as Alice—well, as relateable as a girl finding herself in a whole other world full of strange sights and creatures on the eve of her expected engagement can be. (As a sidenote, I’m really looking forward to seeing her play Jane Eyre early next year… they’d originally cast Ellen Page, but Wasikowska makes a lot more sense to me in the role, and I love that book more than I can say).
I like also that at the end of the film the audience is left to decide for itself whether Alice has really gone to Wonderland, of if she’s simply had yet another dream, as there are clues either way. The only thing I can’t particularly say I cared for very much, was Johnny Depp’s bizarre dance scene at the end. And I do have to mention again how much I enjoyed Anne Hathaway as the White Queen—she was so delightfully strange, and has come quite a long way from The Princess Diaries, though I loved those films too!
Alice in Wonderland gets a solid A from me.