Okay, so it’s not Steampunk, but Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland has generated quite the buzz, not to mention the Disney Chanel is pimping the movie hard. Because there’s such a comprehensive add campaign (at least where I live), the tot really wanted to see it. Despite all the coverage on the Disney Channel and checking out parent-targeted review sites, I still had my reservations about the movie–after all, it was directed by Tim Burton (caveat, I love Tim Burton movies, but the tot *is* only five).
So, I took the tot to see it on Friday after school (non-3D, at her request), fully prepared to leave the theater if it was too scary (I also warned her ahead of time that there would be scary monsters)…
I was pleasantly surprised. The movie was so much more family-friendly then I ever expected. But I was also very entertained by the movie as was the tot (no potty breaks, when you have a five year old, this equates to a five-star rating). She did hang on to me through a few scenes, but nothing out of the ordinary. I think she got annoyed that I kept asking if she was okay.
This version is more of a sequel than a retelling. Here Alice is nineteen and thinks what happened before was all a dream. She goes to a party with her mother only to find out it’s really her engagement party and everyone pressures (and expects) her to just accept the marriage proposal and be happy. She starts seeing a rabbit in a waistcoat and when the proposal happens, she’s just not sure she can go through with it, runs out of the garden, follows the rabbit, and falls down the rabbit hole and the real adventure begins…
As advertised, Alice is a feast of sights and colors. The mundane world is shown in pallid tones, while Wonderland is lush, vibrant, and a bit wild. Color is used to set characters apart–like the Red Queen versus the White Queen. The costumes are amazing–especially Alice’s. My favorite was the one she wore as “Um” in the Red Queen’s palace. But the Mad Hatter’s hat was also something. The acting was amazing, especially the Red Queen and Alice, but the Mad Hatter had some funny bits, too.
They really did a good job of making this movie adventurous, magical, and fresh, as well as enjoyable, but still appropriate for kids. Quite a bit of the movie is computer generated which adds to the fantastical feel of the story–it also takes the edge off the scary scenes and creatures. Even the scene with Alice and the Jabberwocky feels a bit like the scene in Sleeping Beauty where Prince Phillip slays Maleficent. But it’s not a bad thing at all–especially when bringing young children. There is a scary scene where the Red Queen tries to behead the mad Hatter, but it ends happily thanks to the Cheshire cat.
I also thought the story itself was superb. Someone did their research and made it feel as if it were simply the next Alice book. There were plenty of tie-ins to the original story, including reappearances by all the usual suspects. My favorite references include a comment at the garden party about the gardeners planting the wrong roses, the ever present “why is a raven like a writing desk” riddle (for which, i believe, there is no actual answer), and the Mad Hatter reciting the Jabberwocky poem with a Scottish brogue.
An added bonus (especially from the mom perspective) was the theme about finding your own place in the world and making your own path–even if other people are trying to steer you differently. At one point in time the Mad Hatter tells Alice that she “used to be much muchier. You have lost your muchness.” Alice does indeed try to find her “muchness” in the movie. In Wonderland everyone expects her to be the White Queen’s champion and at one point in time Alice says that she’s sick of being told what to do and from now on will make her own path. Even her constant size-changing could serve as a metaphor for Alice trying to figure out where she fits. In the end, she returns to the garden party, the would-be suitor waiting, and taking what she learned about herself in Wonderland, refuses to accept the path laid out for her and goes on to forge her own.
If you’re looking for a trippy adult movie, you might be disappointed, but if you’re looking for some visually-stunning family fare, you’ve come to the right place. Just use your own judgment with very young children since some things can be a little scary at times.
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